HEBRON – Israeli forces in Hebron late Monday blew up the homes of two Palestinians Israel says are prime suspects in the kidnapping and killing of three teens who were found dead earlier that evening, witnesses said.
The two houses, which are both located in the same neighborhood in northwest Hebron, belong to the families of Marwan al-Qawasmeh, 29, and Amer Abu Eisha, 33.
After Israeli forces in Halhul north of Hebron found three bodies presumed to be those of three Israeli teens who went missing on June 12, soldiers surrounded the houses, forcibly removed the families, and declared the area a closed military zone, locals said.
Witnesses said the homes were then blown up by explosives.
Locals had told Ma’an earlier that soldiers were preparing to demolish the homes.
An Israeli army spokeswoman said that the homes “were not demolished,” but said Israeli forces searched the houses late Monday.
Military sources told Ma’an that soldiers used explosives to break down the doors of the houses, and that a fire caused by the one of the explosions “got a little out of control.”
Video footage, not independently verified by Ma’an, emerged showing an explosion in the Abu Eisha home as Israeli forces were stationed nearby.
Meanwhile, Palestinians clashed with Israeli forces, hurling empty bottles and stones at soldiers, who fired tear gas and stun grenades, locals said.
Entrances to Halhul and Hebron were shut down, witnesses added.
Israeli forces have killed six Palestinians in the West Bank military operation that followed the disappearance of three Israeli teenagers from the Gush Etzion settlement on June 12.
The Israeli army said on Thursday that it was still searching for Abu Eisha and al-Qawasmeh.
Abu Eisha’s family has denied the allegations.
HEBRON – The father of one of the suspects named by Israel as being behind the disappearance of three Israeli youths has denied that his son was involved in the suspected kidnapping.
On Thursday, Israel named Marwan al-Qawasmeh, 29, and Amer Abu Eisha, 33, as the two main suspects behind the kidnapping of three Israeli youths on June 12.
Israel’s Shin Bet said they had been jailed in the past for taking part in “terrorist activity on behalf of Hamas.”
Speaking to Ma’an, Abu Eisha’s father denied the allegations and said the family is worried that he has been detained and is being tortured by Israeli security forces.
“The occupation kidnapped my son Amer and I’m afraid they will kill him and say that they killed the terrorist and saved the settlers,” Omar Abu Eisha said.
“I have not yet grasped that Amer and Marwan could kidnap three settlers from the most dangerous security square in Etzion. These are Israeli fabrications, whose goal could be is to strike Hamas in the West Bank and strike the national reconciliation,” he added.
Omar Abu Eisha said that he was with his son Amer at a social event the night the three Israelis went missing, but said that later on in the night he could not find his son and he has been missing ever since.
“He told his wife that he might be away for two days for work in al-Eizariya, but he has not called and I am certain that Israel has kidnapped and hid him,” he said.
Omar Abu Eisha told Ma’an that his son was “working hard and saving money” to build a new house.
The family of Marwan al-Qawasmeh refused to be interviewed or comment on the Israeli accusations.
Eisha was first arrested in Nov. 2005 and was held without trial or charge by Israeli forces until June 2006. He was re-arrested in April 2007 for a short period of time.
Eisha’s brother was shot dead by Israeli forces in Nov. 2005 while ostensibly trying to “throw an explosive” at them, and his father had been arrested by Israel multiple times.
After the Israeli teens disappeared while hitchhiking in the West Bank, the army launched a vast hunt for them focusing on the Hebron area.
Israeli forces initially accused Hamas of the kidnapping, which it vigorously denied, and authorities vowed to “crush” the Palestinian political and militant group.
More than 120 Palestinians have been injured in the military operation, which Israel dubbed “Brother’s Keeper,” and more than 1,350 homes and offices, including numerous universities, have been raided.
The Palestinian Prisoner’s Society said on Thursday that 566 Palestinians have been detained in the campaign, including 12 members of parliament.
As the lockdown on Hebron enters its tenth day, the atmosphere in the city is tense and restless, with people living under a state of erratic checkpoints and military closure for the past week. On the streets of the city, there is only talk of what will happen if the three missing Israeli settlers are not found, or the mystery around their disappearance is not resolved. Every day since their disappearance Israel has imposed ever-increasing restrictions on the West Bank, but residents of Hebron, near the original location of the teens’ disappearance, are feeling the brunt of the crackdown.
The road through Halhul to Hebron is usually a simple route to negotiate, but now the streets of Halhul are besieged with Israeli soldiers, jeeps, and checkpoints making travel through the small city arduous. Halhul is within the Hebron governorate and like the majority of cities and towns in Hebron, the past week has been filled with a series of difficulties and tragedies. Residents face the daily reality of being locked down— restricted to their small area, unable to travel due to imposed Israeli military restrictions, as well as having armed soldiers positioned outside on throughways, often in great numbers. Houses are repeatedly and unpredictably raided, leaving homes in a state of chaos.
“There are so many soldiers and army jeeps here now, it feels like a thousand are here in Halhul” Mohammed Rabah, a resident of the city told Middle East Monitor. “The soldiers are breaking houses down, raiding them at night, arresting people and kicking people out because they are searching for the three settlers. It has become a very bad situation.”
Over 300 Palestinians in the West Bank have been detained so far this week by Israel, almost all during these night raids. While the majority of those arrested have an affiliation to Hamas, Hamas has denied responsibility for the missing Israeli teens. However three small groups in the occupied West Bank have claimed responsibility, Ahrar al-Khalil, the Islamic State of Iraq in the Levant (ISIL), and Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.
On Friday, these now regular night raids, clashes and arrests in the Hebron area resulted in the death of a 14 year old boy who was shot in the chest by the Israeli forces in the early morning. By the afternoon, clashes were already occurring in Hebron’s city centre, as young men faced off against Israeli forces near the entrance to the illegal Israeli settlement situated in the along Shuhada Street.
During the demonstration, a 23-year-old Palestinian man was shot in the ankle by Israeli forces after four hours of clashes, with what his friends and fellow demonstrators said was a live round. Four young men quickly dragged him out of the line of fire and carried him to a car that screeched up to the protest after realizing someone had been shot.
“The bullet is lodged in his ankle for sure,” One of the protestors who helped carry the young man to the car told MEMO. “We are throwing rocks, and they are shooting bullets. Where else in the world is like this?”
A ten-year-old boy was also arrested during the protest.
According to protestors and bystanders, this demonstration was more intense than any they’d experienced before, as the recent Israeli crackdown on the city in search for the three missing Israeli settlers continues.
Previously the Israeli government had announced that the Israeli forces were permitted to use “all measures” to help find the missing settlers. MEMO contacted the Ministry of Defense several times for further comment on what all measures may involve, but the Ministry declined to return these phone calls or emails.
Earlier this week Israeli human rights NGO B’Tselem released a press release urging the Israeli government and Israeli forces “to refrain from meting out collective punishment on the local population,” while carrying out their hunt for the missing Israelis.
With the demonstration in the background and speaking to MEMO under terms of anonymity, many of the young men at the protest spoke of increasing aggressive actions by the army and their belief that they had to respond to it.
While clashes continued into the late afternoon, the streets of Hebron’s city centre were deserted, an increasingly common site. Stores were closed and tourist spots were desolate. The Ministry of Tourism’s information office in the heart of the souk didn’t bother opening for business.
“Two weeks ago, it was very good with tourists who came to Hebron, but because of the problems with the Israeli here, there isn’t anything,” Shadi Sider, who runs a tour group and souvenir shop in Hebron said. “There isn’t work here in Hebron now, the work is just enough to take food in the house—no work, no food.”
The head of the Palestinian businessmen forum in Hebron, Mohammad Nafeth al-Herbawi, said the district of Hebron is losing $10 million a day during the siege on the area. While laborers are facing up to $2 million in losses, according to Ma’an News Agency.
While Sider is one of those who is severely impacted by the lack of business prospects during the siege, he says the problems he faces at home are more worrying. Sider’s home, positioned beside Shuhada Street where an illegal Israeli settlement is situated, is surrounded by illegal settlers. His house has been raided, and his roof annexed a number of times throughout the past week. Due to the proximity of the settlement to his home, Sider is rather used to living life surrounded by soldiers, but this week has been more punishing.
“Thereares more soldiers than there has ever been before. The soldiers come here in my house, and they go on my roof to see, to guard, to make problems,” Sider said. “For the last week since the kidnappings it has been much worse, there are so many soldiers here.”
While Israel’s increased military presence focused on Hebron during the beginning of the search for the missing settlers, it is quickly expanding. Houses have been raided and people arrested through the greater West Bank, and injuries from Israeli forces have been reported in almost every district. Already five Palestinians have been shot dead since the search began including the 14 year old in Dura, a 22 year old in Qalandiya refugee camp, a 20 year old in Ramallah’s al-Jalazun refugee camp, and last night a 35 year old in Nablus and a 30 year old in Ramallah’s city center.
Photo by Operation Dove
Khallet Forem, Occupied Palestine – On June 18th, the Israeli army, along with border police officers and DCO (District Coordination Office) officers entered in the Palestinian village of Khallet Forem, in South Hebron Hills, and demolished seven houses, a bathroom, and a shelter.
No demolition orders were delivered for these structures.
According to Palestinian witnesses, a woman was injured by the soldiers during the operation.
The seven houses, the shelter, and the bathroom were owned by the Abu Dahar family. These demolitions involved at least 26 people, 12 of them are children.
In the same day, Israeli forces demolished the main road of Ar Rifa’Iyya Ad Deirat and built a roadblock in order to prevent the access from that road to the bypass road 356.
According to PHROC (The Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council), the recent wave of demolitions, arrests, attacks, killings, and total closure of large parts of the West Bank following the disappearance of three Israeli settlers is a form of collective punishment against the Palestinian people. This is in direct violation of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention that forbid reprisals against protected persons and their property, as well as collective punishment.
Photo by Operation Dove
The public so far knows very little outside of the alleged time that Gilad Shaar, Naftali Frenkel, and Eyal Yifrach were kidnapped. But what we do know is the absolute mayhem the Israeli military has spread throughout the Hebron district among innocent families. Additionally, routine night raids, day patrols, confiscation of public property for military outposts, and the blockades on all but two access points into Hebron have suffocated the livelihood of Hebronites.
Soldiers raided the home and took possession of the Al Awewe family home in Aqbet Taffuh for six hours on Sunday. Over fifty troops had occupied the home while three adults, four young girls, and a young boy were in the home. The Israeli military would not allow a one-year-old baby to leave the house and her mother had to sit outside helplessly wondering about the safety of her daughter, who was still nursing. The soldiers found no suspects connected to the kidnapping in the home.
In that same area on Monday morning, the IDF confiscated the security camera equipment the al-Natshe family had installed around their house for their protection, along with video footage the cameras had recorded.
Further down the road in the Aqbet Taffuh area, approximately fifty-five Israeli soldiers left the hilltop area of the Palestinian municipality, occupied several homes, questioned families, tore down a private Palestinian fence and occupied the neighborhood for several hours.
Throughout the afternoon, northeast of Bab i-Zaweyah, just outside of the H1/H2 intersection, a brigade of more than forty soldiers stationed themselves in four different homes and a supermarket within a two hour period, leaving families frightened and unsure of their intentions.
On 15 June at around 9:30 p.m., an Israeli raid on a Palestinian home ended with a seven-year-old Palestinian boy hospitalized after the Israeli military used an explosive device to blow open the front door of the Akram Al Qawasmeh home. The subsequent powerful blast shattered the tempered reinforced glass, shearing off the decorative steel and sending pieces of shrapnel into all corners of the home, which severely injured Akram Al Qawasmeh’s son.
After the explosion, Israeli soldiers did not allow Akram Al Qawasmeh to see his son, and according to reports, the military initially stopped medical personal from treating the victim. CPT arrived the following day and found a home turned upside down. (See video below.) Children’s belongings were spread and broken around the house. Israeli soldiers demolished the kitchen, smashing fruits, vegetables, and other food items on the floor, and left feces on a rug in the basement.
These are just a few of the incidents that CPTers were able to report on directly. Other human rights organizations have also reported an increase in settler violence against Palestinians who live near the Hebron area settlements.
Historically, Palestinian violence has been the justification for settlement expansion in Hebron. Currently, the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee has identified over twenty-two locations of pending settlement expansion and settler activity. The behavior of the Israeli military and settlers in Hebron suggests the government may use the case of the three young kidnapped boys as an excuse to expand these settlements in the Hebron area or elsewhere in the West Bank while the international community is distracted.
See previous release, AL-KHALIL (HEBRON): Hijacking a kidnapping, Part I
Hebron, Occupied Palestine – Yesterday the Israeli army invaded a family house in the H1 area, supposedly under full Palestinian Authority civil and security control, of al-Khalil (Hebron). The father of the family is very ill with heart disease; the family was forced in to one room and was not allowed to leave. The eight Israeli soldiers used the house as an unofficial army post, both to rest and to view the area. The soldiers stayed there overnight, terrifying the family, as they had no idea when the soldiers would leave. At approximately 11:00 am, the soldiers left the house, however they informed the family that they would return.
The soldiers then entered the next house, relatives of the same family, with four young children. First they searched the house, and then occupied the children’s room on the second floor. They moved the children’s beds to get more space and placed a black blanket to cover the doorway.
The soldiers took shifts, sitting in front of the room watching the family, while the rest were sleeping, eating, and viewing the area. The family told the ISMers present that the soldiers also took showers. The soldiers seemed very uncomfortable with the ISM volunteers in the house, and behaved very aggressively towards them, and the family members who were taking photos.
The family offered the soldiers to use the roof instead of the children’s room, but they refused.
The military presence in the house caused a lot of fear for the family, they were unable to carry out their daily routines, and the children were very upset that they could not enter their room; they were afraid the soldiers would take their belongings and break their toys.
After five hours the family convinced the military to leave, as they left, it was witnessed them joining with a much larger group of soldiers.
Since last Friday, there has been a large increase in home invasions all over the West Bank. This is part of the collective punishment inflicted on the Palestinian population, since the disappearance of three Israeli settler youth on Thursday.
‘I have a vision that suddenly all the Jewish people will come to live here… And if there were 10 million Jews here, we wouldn’t have to give up on anything.’
Reuven Rivlin was elected yesterday the tenth president of Israel. He has previously served as Speaker of the Knesset (2003-’06, 2009-’13), and has been a Member of Knesset since 1988. Hailing from PM Netanyahu’s Likud party, Rivlin also served as a minister in Ariel Sharon’s government (2001-’03). He will replace Shimon Peres when the latter’s term ends in July.
“I whole-heartedly believe that the land of Israel is ours in its entirety.”
“The communities in Judea and Samaria [Ed. referring to West Bank settlements] do not threaten our existence, they guarantee our existence.”
“Today, almost 20 years after Oslo, we can see clearly that the idea of separating the [Israeli and Palestinian] nations failed.”
“For some reason the settlement enterprise is being accused of being an obstacle to peace. Personally, I explain at each possible forum that the obstacle to peace is the objection by the Arabs to it and the fact that they do not want us here”.
Israeli citizens who marry Palestinians need to move to “the other side“.
“Dividing Jerusalem will bring disaster for the city. It cannot be that every time something is built in Jerusalem, the international community censures it. This constant criticism is a mark of disgrace for the international community.”
“We will not apologize – not for conquering Katamon or Jaffa or Tzfat, nor for liberating Hebron, and not for building Jerusalem our capital.”
“The residents here [in Migron settlement] are not thieves and are not trying to banish people from their land. They came here innocently, with the encouragement of the State of Israel.”
“There is no consensus in Israel regarding the two state formula. We will not, under any circumstances, allow the establishment of a neighbouring state that will be a genuine threat on our existence.”
“Zionism from its outset was a settlement movement. If we stop going on this path, how can we justify the faith that all of Zion belongs to us?”
“There are red lines that I as a democrat, say you cannot cross. I see it as defiance against Israel and Jerusalem as its capital as well as another protest against the historical narrative, a matter already pending before the High Court.” (Responding to a MK Tibi-proposed bill recognising Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state)
“I have a vision that suddenly all the Jewish people [from around the world] will come to live here… And if there were 10 million Jews here, we wouldn’t have to give up on anything.”
“If the Nakba is a tragedy, then the establishment of the State of Israel is a tragedy. The Palestinians experienced a catastrophe that was brought on by their leaders, but the establishment of the State of Israel is not the reason for it.”
“Terrorism is trying to paralyze and silence democracies fighting against it, exactly as was manifest in the world’s reaction to Israel’s counter-terrorist offensive Cast Lead in light of the Goldstone Report.”
“We miss [Rehavam Ze'evi's] clear, ideological voice, his leadership, his larger than life presence.”
Hebron, Occupied Palestine – With only a sliver of their land left to protect, having their entire lot of land encircled by Israeli settlements, Faryel and Arwa Abu Haikal climbed over a pile of rubble and boulders and stopped the Israeli bulldozer from shearing further into their property, dumping their dignity into the back of a dump truck, and hauling away their rights. There they stood under the unrelenting sun, staring into the teeth of the approaching bucket excavator, protecting their land from the ever encroaching Israeli settlement enterprise, facing arrest and physical assault – a reality they have faced for decades. Their resilience and steadfastness held off the Israeli Antiquity Authority (I.A.A.) for at least a few hours.
The I.A.A. continues to deploy a variety of tactics to annex privately owned Palestinian land on the hill top of Hebron, including ignoring previous orders issued by the Israeli police to halt work. Under the directive of Emmanuel Eisenberg, the I.A.A. project coordinator, the excavator bucket began carving deeper into Faryel Abu Haikal’s land, breaking both Israeli and international law in the process.
“They don’t know where the land is,” said Eisenberg about the Abu Haikal’s resistance to the archeological dig. “We will keep working. We are like the wagon that goes by the barking dog: The wagon keeps going and the dog keeps barking.”
In many ways, it’s hard to disagree with Eisenberg on the trajectory of the illegal settlement expansion in the West Bank and the recent illegal activity in Hebron. More than 1,500 hundred shops or homesteads have either been squatted or blocked off, creating a Hebronite Diaspora of several tens of thousands of Palestinians. The Hebronite refugee population didn’t happen all at once, but rather has occurred and continues to occur in a system of apartheid which operates with immunity.
Since Rabbi Moshe Levinger first led his caravan to the Park Hotel in the heart of Hebron to establish the Kiryat Arba settlement in 1967, the Jewish settlers have slowly, inch by inch, piece by piece, constructed an elaborate security apparatus that only Israelis have the keys to. In Hebron, there are over 130 road blocks, dead end streets, check points, and military patrols that restrict Palestinian access to their city.
The Abu Haikal’s land and life is a microcosm of the principles of ethnic cleansing at work across Palestine today.
For the sake of expediency, this is just a short history of the aggression and assault that the Abu Haikal family has endured at the hands of the Jewish settlers and the Israeli security forces while trying to maintain a home to raise their family.
In 1984, Jewish settlers first arrived on Tel Rumeida, the historical hilltop neighborhood of Hebron, which, according to some religious texts, is where Abraham first laid claim to land. It is this historical interpretation that provides impetus for archeological digs to establish exclusive Jewish claims to the hilltop. The Tel Rumeida settlement stands today on concrete pylons built directly on a previous archeological dig. This marked the genesis of the heightened tensions that would continually boil over and spill onto the Abu Haikal’s land year after year.
The next year, the Abu Haikal family’s land was trespassed by settlers looking to establish religious significance on the land by praying on it, a tactical first step that often leads to the construction of a synagogue.
A few years later in 1991, the Israeli Army sent a formal letter to the family informing them that they were confiscating parts of their land (plot 54) for military purposes, which then was reconstructed into an army barracks. To this day, the Abu Haikal family has a military base in their backyard, a backyard that for generations has been cultivated by their family. Their field of family memories is now the staging grounds for night raids into Palestinian homes.
The following year, settlers brought a caravan to another corner of the Abu Haikal land (plot 53). Fortunately, they were able to halt the annexation of that plot – temporarily.
February 25, 1994, is a day that will live in infamy. The American-born, Jewish religious extremist Baruch Goldstein entered the Cave of the Patriarchs, killing 29 Palestinian Muslim worshipers and wounding another 125. The following day, the Israeli military responded by taking over the Mosque of the 40 Companions which had been on the land of the Abu Haikals for centuries. Their place of religious sanctuary was stripped out from underneath of them, even though it had little connection to the incident.
As the construction continued on the illegal settlement near their house and the Jewish extremist population of Hebron started to swell, the attacks on their land and family continued in frequency and heightened in intensity.
On July 2, 1998, Jewish settlers cut down three trees on their property and brought a bulldozer to uproot more, but the family was able to utilize the law and nonviolently halt the destruction of their property.
A year later, in July, the internet icon of settler violence in Hebron, Anat Cohen along with her children and eight settlers, trespassed on their property (plot 54) using a footpath between the Abu Haikal houses to the settlement. The Abu Haikal family objected and the settlers, as they had so many times before, resorted to violence. Escalations involving 40 settlers erupted, and a settler with a wooden stick bludgeoned Arwa Abu Haikal, seriously injuring her. Despite the trespassing settlers and the initial aggressions, it was the Abu Haikal family that was issued fines, having to pay 1,500 shekels.
The settlement expansion continued under the guidance of a familiar face: Emmanuel Eisenberg. Eisenberg was responsible for the oversight of the archeological dig that led to the illegal settlement of Ramat Yishai in Tel Rumeida.
Despite the years of attacks and threats of land confiscation, on Jan 22, 2000, the Abu Haikals renewed the rental agreement with the Israeli Authorities and paid a year in advance, keeping the hope that justice would be realized. Signing the protection tenancy wasn’t about the land for them, it was a commitment to resist the illegal settlement expansion, knowing that years of harassment and violence awaited them.
Within three months, 70 settlers had occupied their land inside a structure. The Abu Haikals again called the police to evict the settlers from their land. The rule of law prevailed in that moment, but the leniency, which borders on absolute impunity, led to almost 100 settlers again attacking the Abu Haikal family on their land. Again, it was the Abu Haikals who had to pay 3,000 shekels in the aftermath.
When the Second Intifada broke out in September 2002, the pressure cooker which is Tel Rumeida, was quickly turned into a strategic Israeli military asset, and homes overlooking the city had their rooftops transformed into lookout towers and sniper positions. The Call to Prayer, the spiritual serenade from the mosques on the hill top, was replaced by the sounds of bullets cutting through the air and rocketing through their neighbors’ houses. For the next three years, curfews would further restrict the ability of the Abu Haikal family and others to even leave their house and provide for their family.
Shortly after the Second Intifada erupted, Wadea Abu Haikal (age 16) was attacked on the street in front of the house, and the stones hurled by the settlers broke his nose. The soldiers explained they could not protect the family, and prevented them from accessing their front path to the road in front of the settlement.
The Israeli authority then approached the Abu Haikals about putting a fence around their plots of land (53, 52) to help keep out the settlers. The key to the gate was never handed over the family.
One month later, the Israeli authorities refused to accept their rent, and plots 53 and 52 were declared a closed military zone. The fruit orchards would soon bear their last harvest.
The same year in September, despite being a closed military zone, Israeli settlers celebrated Sukkot on plot 52, building a wooden structure associated with the holiday on their land. A few weeks later, the booth was dismantled by the Israeli authorities. The settlers responded to Faryel Abu Haikal’s petition to remove the illegal booth by attacking her on the way home from school where she worked.
During the 2002-03 military campaign, it was normal for the military to show up during the month of Ramadan, a holy time for Muslims who fast during the day and then at sunset, break their fast in communion with their family. Routinely the military showed up and pulled the family out of the house to disrupt their religious practices. The Abu Haikals creatively resisted, preparing tea and taking nuts and seeds with them as the guards sat them on the ground. They refused give up their tradition, their religious rights.
October 22, 2003 was a day that changed Arwa Abu Haikal’s life. A Palestinian was shot. Knowing that soldiers would quickly mobilize to shut down roads and lock down access paths to her home and that her younger siblings would need to be attended to, she left her work at Bab Al Zaweyah, a 20-minute walk up hill to her house. As she walked down the road, a soldier stopped her and held a gun to her head, threatening her life if she continued her walk to her home. Frightened, but undeterred, she continued, forcing the soldier to make the decision between murder and humanity. Shortly after, the IDF brigade besieged the house, dragging the family out onto the street. Her parents were unable to preempt the lockdown and had to wait until 1:30 am before the streets were reopened. As the parents waited anxiously, not knowing if their children were safe, the children sat by themselves outside the home in the cold and the dark. The Israeli military proceeded to unload round after round from their machine guns into the walls, furniture, closets, and cherished belongings while the family sat helplessly outside. Some of the holes remain today.
Two days later, the soldiers returned and took the mother of the household, Faryel, into a separate room and questioned her for four hours as the rest of the family sat helplessly.
The following year, the settlement expansion continued and Jewish extremists took control of the elderly Al Bakri couple’s home nearby. They later build structures on the Al Bakri garden. The close proximity to the Abu Haikal’s house led an increase in frequency of attacks on their home, forcing them to put metal cages around their windows.
“Our windows have been broken several times over the years, until finally we were forced to put metal grates around them,” said Faryel Abu Haikal. The Abu Haikal had to replace the windows with their home money, a situation unique to the occupation: the oppressed have to pay for the aggression of the oppressor.
The settlers found other ways to cause damage to the family’s home in the hopes of driving them off the land.
Settlers systematically razed the olive trees and stole their harvest. When their grape vines had matured, those too were consumed by the indifference of extreme Jewish ideology. Fires to their dried up field continued over the next several years. By 2006, half of the trees on plot 52 had been cut down and destroyed by settlers, and what was left had been burnt by almost continuous arson.
Two years later in December of 2009, the military entered the Abu Haikal house, pointing their guns in the face of the males in the room. The women of the house stood between the guns and their men. The soldiers responded with extreme force and attacked the family, many of whom were badly beaten. The four who had resisted the assault were arrested and had to pay a 1,000-shekel fine a piece.
Over the next four years, settlers held women’s Torah groups on plot 52, right outside the family’s salon, singing, discussing the Jewish heritage of the land, and praying in the hopes of establishing a synagogue.
The repeated attempts by Jewish settlers to establish claims to the land continued, as they planted 200 vine plants and an irrigation system on plot 52, forcing the Abu Haikal family to seek legal remedy. Again, they had to take time off from work, renegotiate responsibilities away from the home, and convince the Israeli police to intervene. After six long weeks the army removed the vines.
A short time later, Israeli soldiers helped settler children build a tree house in the big ancient olive tree on the Abu Haikal land, next to the soldiers look-out structure. It took the police three hours to remove the children.
In April of 2012, the settlers cut more trees on plot 52, again with the protection of soldiers. The Abu Haikals continued to advocate and speak up in the hopes that one day the international community would respond.
On January 5th, 2014, Emmanuel Eisenberg returned to attend to unfinished business. Settler “archaeologists” from the Israel Antiquities Authority and Ariel University moved onto plot 52 with a bulldozer and two containers. The Abu Haikal family protested, and Sami Abu Haikal was detained. The settlers uprooted all the almond trees immediately and began with the illegal excavations.
There was a small victory in the small Palestinian neighborhood in Tel Rumeida. In 2014, Israeli High Court granted possession and the return of Al Bakri family land . . . but ordered the family to pay the police the costs for 50 police officers to remove the settlers. The court would attempt to recover the cost of eviction from the Jewish settlers. That has yet to happen.
One month later, plot 53 was consumed by the archeological dig that was never about archeology, but rather the establishment of a biblical museum. On February 5th, 2014, the I.A.A. moved onto plot 53 with a bulldozer and uprooted all the cherry trees. It also blocked a well-used right-of-way and replaced it with a longer, narrow footpath around the edge of the property that descends a steep, precarious slope.
Despite their land being confiscated, a week and a half later the Abu Haikals paid their rent up to 2015 in order to confirm their continued legal ownership of the land. The money was accepted by the Israeli institution, but excavations continued.
On February 19th, 2014, settler archaeologists uncovered a Muslim grave built of stone slabs directly on the bedrock and oriented to Mecca. Contrary to best archaeological practices and religious principles, they removed the grave.
Despite a police injunction to stop working, on March 26th, Emmanuel Eisenberg and David Ben Shlomo supervised the destruction of another section of the retaining wall, representing the border between plots 54 and 53. The Mayor of Hebron, Dr. Dawood Al Zatari, visited the area and stated that he was going to pursue legal remedy to the confiscation of land. His words have yet to lead to action.
Even after 20 years of extreme, systematic and planned abuse built by detailed policy after policy, the Abu Haikals continue to resist, even though so many times the expansion around their land has continued.
This week they were able to risk their lives in order reinforce a police order to stop working. The police orders should have stopped work, but as Eisenberg has said so many times, he doesn’t “give a shit,” and reminded everyone that at the end of the day, “We will keep working. We are like the wagon that goes by the barking dog: The wagon keeps going and the dog keeps barking.”
Excavations continue on Abu Haikel Land
AL-KHALIL (HEBRON) – The Israeli Antiquity Authority (IAA) continues to expropriate Palestinian land in Hebron, on the Tel Rumeida hillside. On Sunday 18 May 2014, the IAA workforce, under the instruction of project coordinator Emmanuel Eisenberg, continued to cause structural damaged to the Abu Haikel land, deploying questionable and illegal archeological practices, while at the same time utilizing the Al Jobeh family’s land without the family’s consent.
The excavations are illegal under Israeli law, according to the Oslo Agreement, which Israel signed in the mid-90s— a process jointly agreed upon by Israel and Palestine as a vehicle to peace and stability. Article 2 of the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement describes in detail how Israeli and Palestinians would jointly administer archeological projects in Palestinian territory. The IAA has not abided by this agreement in Tel Rumeida.
As previously reported, the IAA had verbally agreed to halt the archeological excavations on the land bordering the Abu Haikel plot until the borders of the property were properly demarcated. Despite the agreement, the IAA illegal activities continued onto the Abu Haikel’s property, eventually undermining a retaining wall, causing it to collapse and exposing the roots of a centuries-old olive tree to the elements. These breaches were not the first damage to the Abu Haikel land as a result of the excavations.
The disregard of both international law and Israeli law, combined with verbal and physical assaults of the families living on Tel Rumeida is not an isolated incident, but rather constitute a colonial methodology by the Jewish settler enterprise in Israel. These tactics were the same political instruments that led to the establishment and expansion of the Israeli settlement of Tel Rumeida.
Explaining how he could destroy the foundations of the Abu Haikel’s wall, Emmanuel Eisenberg said explicitly that he, “Doesn’t give a shit,” and articulated at length the nature of his work, in which he envisioned the site becoming a tourist destination with a kiosk or restaurant on the Palestinian lands. At one point during the dialogue, Eisenberg had attacked a human rights observer.
As has been chronicled by Israeli Jewish historian Illan Pappe, among others, forced displacement, harassment, and the suppression of basic rights has been the central component of Israeli policy toward the Palestinians. This reality is demonstrated with facts on the ground in Hebron specifically, with over a thousand Palestinian homes and shops evacuated, razed, or confiscated for the benefit, protection, and expansion of Jewish settlements.
Eisenberg’s work on Tel Rumeida is an extension of formal Israeli policy to settle in “Judea and Samaria” and another instrument of the settlement plan to force Palestinians to leave Hebron.
The gate to the Abu Haikal house
HEBRON – Israeli settlers set fire to a private Palestinian field in the Tel Rumeida neighborhood in the southern West Bank city of Hebron on Saturday night as part of a celebration for the Jewish holiday of Lag BaOmer.
Settlers circled around the field and watched as the fire burned olive trees, in a field that locals said belongs to the Iqneibi family.
Some of the settlers reportedly assaulted a cameraman who works for the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz as he tried to take film the fire.
Lag BaOmer marks the the death of a 2nd century sage associated with Jewish mysticism, and is traditionally marked with bonfires.
Activist and co-founder of the Hebron activist group Youth against Settlements Issa Amro told Ma’an that Israeli settlers have recently been harassing and assaulting the Palestinian residents of Tel Rumeida in an attempt to scare them and get them to leave their houses and lands.
Hebron is a frequent site of tensions due to the presence of around 500 Israeli settlers in the Old City, many of whom have illegally occupied Palestinian houses and forcibly removed the original inhabitants.
Tel Rumeida hosts one of the most militant Jewish settlements in the city, and locals complain of near daily harassment and attacks by the groups, who are under heavy Israeli military protection.
Hebron, Occupied Palestine – The Israeli occupation uses many methods to take over land – from settlements and military camps to the nature reserve and political treaties. However, the Abu Haikal family of Tel Rumeida in Al-Khalil (Hebron), faces a much more unexpected enemy: archaeologists. Currently, the family home is completely surrounded by an Israeli archaeological excavation – there is only one gate into the property, which can be shut at any time, leaving the family isolated from the surrounding city.
At first glance, the presence of an archaeological site seems quite positive, or at the very least harmless, however a quick look at the politics surrounding the Tel Rumeida excavation shows that this is far more sinister than a simple historical inquisition.
Under the Oslo Accords, the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) must coordinate all of their work in the West Bank with the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities. In Tel Rumeida, Palestinian officials have been denied entry.
IAA archaeologists – many of whom live in the surrounding illegal settlements – began digging in Tel Rumeida on January 5th, 2014. They claimed they were looking for the graves of Jesse and Ruth, figures from the Hebrew Bible. The IAA has also stated their intent to turn the area into a ‘Biblical Archaeological Park’, depending on what the dig turns up.
While no uniquely Jewish artifacts have been found, Palestinian officials confirmed that the settler-archaeologists have destroyed several Muslim graves that were found on the site. Residents of Tel Rumeida have reported that IAA employees are also in the process of bulldozing an ancient Canaanite retaining wall. For them, the deliberate annihilation of non-Jewish history in Hebron is anything but innocuous.
The Israeli Antiquities Authority has been a tool for settlement expansion and land grabs in the West Bank for a long time, including the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan, the town of Khirbet Susiya, and other settlements within Hebron. The strategy is simple: Archaeologists enter an area and search for signs of uniquely Jewish history. When a site or artifact is discovered – or possibly fabricated – the area is declared to be an integral part of the ‘Jewish State’. To ‘protect’ the land, a settlement is built on top of the site, driving away the Palestinian owners. – Video interview
Attempt by settlers to begin construction of walking path on Tel Rumeida. The blue fence is on the
On 24 March 2014, settlers attempted to begin construction of a walking path outside the fenced “archaeological” dig near the Abu Haikal home on Tel Rumeida. The settlers pounded in metal stakes in an area just below the fence erected by Israelis around what was once the orchard of the Abu Haikal family, and is now an archaeological site to which Palestinians, including Palestinian archaeological experts, are denied access. The stakes are a first step in an apparent attempt to link the settlement of Tel Rumeida to the fenced area of the archaeological dig.
Palestinians living in the building adjacent to the land on which the settlers were trespassing called the police, who ordered the settlers to stop. However, the following day, 25 March, soldiers arrived at the home of the Abu Haikal family and threatened them with arrest.
Feryal Abu Haikal had just finished hosting a group of neighbors, along with the Palestinian Liaison Officer and an officer from the Hebron Governor’s office, when soldiers arrived at her home and began to dispute the ownership of some of the land on Tel Rumeida, showing her a map that contained false information. The soldiers told Feryal Abu Haikal that no visitors are allowed on the land surrounding her home, and threatened to arrest and deport any internationals there, including members of the Abu Haikal family.
For background on the settler archaeological dig on Tel Rumeida click here
To see a map of multiple land-grab efforts by settlers in Hebron click here.