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From the field

Testimony: Settlers assault family in Hebron following the eviction of the settlement in the a-Ras neighborhood, 4 December 2008

Rajaa Matariyah, mother of five

Rajaa Matariyah

My husband and I live with our five children in Wadi al-Hussein. My brother-in-law Husni al-Matariyeh and his family live in the same building. He has ten children.

The building is located about twenty meters from the fence of the Kiryat Arba settlement and two hundred meters from the house that the settlers invaded about a year and a half ago [“the House in Dispute”]. Settlers have been assaulting us almost every day for a long time. Since they invaded the house, they've been attacking us even more.

Damaged property on the family's roof after the assault. Photo: 'Isa Amro, B'Tselem, 12 Dec. 2008.
Damaged property on the family's roof after the assault. Photo: 'Isa Amro, B'Tselem, 12 Dec. 2008.

Twenty days ago, when the Supreme Court decided that they had to leave the house, settlers cut the wire fence surrounding Kiryat Arba close to our building. The army hasn't fixed the fence since then.

On Saturday, 29 November, settlers threw stones at our house. To defend ourselves, we threw stones at them, and they ran away. That same day, an officer from the Civil Administration came to our house and told us: “You are our responsibility, and we'll protect you.” He asked us to file a complaint with the police. We told him, “We've already complained a lot of times, and it never helps.”  But he insisted, so the next day, my husband went to the Israeli police station and filed a complaint against the settlers who attacked our house.

On Monday night, 1 December, settlers again attacked our house. They stood by the hole in the fence and threw lots of stones at us. They also tried to enter our house. They climbed onto the roof and destroyed some of our property.  We shouted for help, but it took the soldiers about two hours to arrive.

On Thursday [4 December], around 2:30 P.M., a large police force entered the Rajbi house. My family and I went outside to watch the eviction. My children and my brothers-in-law's children were playing outside. When the police began to evict the occupants from the house, we saw settlers passing along a path next to our house, apparently on their way to the Rajbi house to prevent the eviction.

Suddenly, two settlers came up and tried to assault my brother-in-law Husni. One of them was holding a pistol. My father-in-law, ‘Abd al-Hai al-Matariyeh, told him to leave because we didn't want any problems. The settler fired a shot that hit Husni in the chest. When my father-in-law tried to overcome the shooter, the same settler shot him in his left arm. Then dozens of settlers attacked our house with stones and tried to burn the houses of our neighbors. There were also settlers who fired into the air. We threw stones at them to protect our house, and some of them fired in our direction.

After about fifteen minutes passed, four soldiers arrived and ordered us to go into the house. We went inside and could no longer defend ourselves. The soldiers didn't try to stop the settlers' attack.

The settlers continued their attack for about two hours. My children and I stayed in one room. They children were terrified and we were all crying. We heard the sound of the windows breaking and of the water tanks being punctured. Flames spread into the house and we had to put them out with blankets, because the settlers had damaged our water system.

All this time, there were about four soldiers next to the house, but they didn't help. The settlers tried to burn the house of our neighbors, the a-Razem family. I told the soldiers what they were doing, but they didn't stop the settlers. After about half an hour passed, one of the soldiers went there and brought the woman and children to our house.

The attack didn't stop until journalists arrived at our house. An Israeli journalist called the police and then the police arrived, but the settlers had already destroyed most of the property of the houses in our area. They had punctured a dozen or so water tanks, destroyed two electric boilers, a solar water tank, and about five satellite dishes. Part of our house was burned, the electricity, telephone, and water lines were completely destroyed, and most of our windows were shattered.

We've lost our faith that the Israeli police would protect us. Now we don't have running water or a telephone line, our windows are broken, and the TV doesn't work. We feel isolated from the outside world.

Rajaa Yusef Rashid Matariyah, 40, married and mother of five children, is a homemaker and a resident of Hebron. Her testimony was given to 'Issa 'Amro at the witness's home on 7 December 2008.