On Saturday, 1 August 2020, 'Imad (50) and Fayzeh (46) Abu Shamsiyeh’s married children, ‘Awni (21) and Madlyn (22), paid a festive visit to their parents to mark the second day of ‘Eid al-Fitr. They came with their spouses and children to the family home, which lies in the neighborhood of Tel Rumeidah in central Hebron.
At around midday, Marwa Abu Shamsiyeh (16) took her niece Rital (1.5) to the grocery store to buy sweets for all the children. On their way back, a group of about 10 young settlers between the ages of 10 and 15 began harassing the two girls. Marwa picked Rital up and kept walking home, at which point one of the teens grabbed her hair. The others then gathered around, kicking her, hitting her and spitting at her – and one even tried to snatch the toddler from her arms.
‘Awni, who was sitting by his parent’s house with a friend, heard his sister and niece screaming and rushed to their aid. He pushed the settler children to get them off the two girls. Only at that late stage did a soldier from the nearby Gilbert Checkpoint intervene: he ordered ‘Awni and his relatives to go home.
The family heard the commotion and Fayzeh, Salah (14) and Madlyn went outside. The same children started throwing stones and glass bottles at them, wounding Madlyn in the leg and Salah in the hand. Meanwhile, dozens of settlers gathered near the family home. Four soldiers arrived and tried to keep them at bay.
The family fled indoors, as several settlers climbed onto the roof of their home and others surrounded it. Given the rising tension, some 30 soldiers and Civil Administration officials arrived, as well as police officers in five vehicles. The security forces sent the settlers away but they remained nearby. About 15 minutes later, soldiers entered the family home and arrested ‘Awni. The settlers cheered as they drove him away to the police station in Kiryat Arba. Soldiers and settlers continued to linger around the house for about three hours.
One of the soldiers questioned Marwa, inside the house, about the incident. He then drove her, along with her mother, to the police station to file a complaint against the settlers. The police accused ‘Awni of assaulting the settlers and ordered him to pay 500 NIS (~148 USD). He refused and after the officers watched footage of the incident, they waived the payment. The three family members were released about three hours later.
In a testimony she gave B’Tselem field researcher Manal al-Ja’bari, Marwa Abu Shamsiyeh related what she underwent during the holiday:
At around 2:30 P.M., I took Rital to the grocery store to buy things for the kids. The store is at the top of the hill in our neighborhood opposite the settlement of Ramat Yishai. On our way home, I saw 15 or so settlers, about 10 to 15 years old, near the Gilbert checkpoint. A soldier was standing at the checkpoint. I got nervous, so I picked Rital up and kept walking home.
The settlers started doing impressions of my father, who has a limp. I ignored them and kept walking because I was afraid for Rital. Then one of them pulled my hair from behind. They surrounded me and started kicking me and hitting me. One of them tried to snatch Rital from my arms.
Rital started screaming and crying. I screamed, too, until my brother ‘Awni showed up. He started pushing the settlers to get them off me. The soldier by the checkpoint did nothing when the settlers attacked me, but when ‘Awni arrived he suddenly tried to get him away from the settlers and ordered us to leave.
We tried to leave, but the settlers attacked us again. I ran home with Rital and told my mother what was going on. I asked her to go and help ‘Awni. My mother, Madlyn and Salah went outside and started yelling at the settlers. In the end, everyone came back inside.
Then, soldiers suddenly came into our house and arrested ‘Awni. After that, another soldier came and questioned me about what had happened. I told him the settlers had attacked me and tried to snatch Rital. Then a police officer came and said he’d take me to the police station in Kiryat Arba. My mother demanded to come along and he agreed.
They took us by jeep to the station and kept us waiting in the yard for about 15 minutes. A police officer led me into a room where they were holding ‘Awni in handcuffs, and then he took me to another room. He interrogated me for about half an hour while my mother waited outside.
‘Awni's interrogator told us we had to pay 500 shekels. My mother got angry and told the officers that the settlers were the ones who attacked us, and that we wanted to file a complaint against them. After we filed the complaint, the interrogator watched surveillance footage and saw that the settlers had attacked us. He agreed to release ‘Awni without a fine.
About three hours later, a jeep drove us back to a-Shuhada Street. We got home tired and upset because they ruined our holiday.
‘Awni Abu Shamsiyeh gave his account of the incident to field researcher Manal al-Ja’bari:
I was sitting with a friend on the street in front of our house. Suddenly, I heard my sister Marwa screaming. I ran over to her and saw about 15 settlers between the ages of 10 and 15 gathered around her. She was holding Rital and one of them was pulling at her hair. Another kid was trying to snatch Rital. The girls were screaming and crying, and Marwa was trying to hold onto Rital while they kicked her and spat at her.
I tried to get them off Marwa and Rital. Then a soldier who was sitting at the Gilbert checkpoint, who hadn't intervened when they attacked Marwa, ordered me to take the girls and get out of there.
We started walking home but the settlers attacked us again. Marwa ran home with Rital. A few minutes later, my mother came out of the house with Madlyn and Salah, and they started yelling at the settlers to make them leave. The settlers started throwing stones and glass bottles at us. They injured Madlyn in the leg and Salah in the hand. At that point, four soldiers showed up and tried to make the settlers leave.
In the end, my family and I managed to get inside and close the front door, but some settlers climbed up to our roof. About 50 others surrounded the house, shouting and trying to break in.
Then a lot of soldiers and police officers showed up and managed to remove the settlers. About 15 minutes later, soldiers came to the house and asked about me. They said they were going to arrest me. My mother tried to stop them, but they pushed her and took me outside. My mother, Marwa, Madlyn and Salah ran after me. The soldiers led me to the entrance to the nearby settlement of Ramat Yishai. There, they handcuffed me while the settlers tried to attack me again.
They drove me to the police station in Kiryat Arba, where I was interrogated and accused of hitting the settlers. I told them it wasn’t true and asked them to get the footage from the soldiers’ cameras to see what really happened. I said the settlers had attacked us.
The interrogator said he’d release me after I paid 500 shekels. But my mother, who had come to the station, refused and told the officers that the settlers were the ones who attacked us and that we wouldn't leave until we filed a complaint against them.
After they brought the camera footage, the interrogator watched it and decided to release me without a fine. After about three hours of interrogation and waiting in the heat in the station yard, a police jeep dropped us off at a-Shuhada Street. From there, we went home. I had bruises and wounds on my hand. We were tired and upset because the settlers ruined our holiday gathering.
Filmed by: تجمع المدافعين عن حقوق الانسان - Human Rights Defenders.