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.
|The Al-Rajabi building.
Settlers have won a victory in their ongoing attempt to grab land for a new settlement in Hebron. On 11 March 2014, the Israeli Supreme Court agreed to hand over the Al-Rajabi building in the Old City of Hebron to settlers, despite the grim humanitarian impacts of the decision on Palestinians living in the neighborhood. The Hebron Rehabilitation Committee (HRC) has appealed to the international community to speak out against this violation of Palestinian property rights, and to use all means available to prevent the creation of a new settlement in the Old City of Hebron.
Settlers claimed ownership of Al-Rajabi house on 19 September 2007, when a group of them stormed into the building in the middle of the night. In November 2008, the court found that the settler’s purchase documents were forged and evicted them, placing the building under military control pending a final decision. In reaction, Hebron settlers set fire to Palestinian homes, farms, olive trees, and vehicles in the area. Six Palestinians were injured, two with live ammunition. On 11 March 2014, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the Palestinian owner of the building must, against his will, accept payment from Israeli settlers in the amount specified in the forged sale documents.
A thirty minute walk from the Al Rajabi building settlers are using “archaeology” to rewrite the history of the city and take control of two large plots of land on top of the hilly neighborhood of Tel Rumeida. On 5 January, Israeli settlers and soldiers uprooted fifty almond trees belonging to the Abu Heikal family, and began digging on two plots of land that surround the family’s home, and which the family has leased and cultivated for sixty-five years.
Since January, the settlers have used heavy earth-moving equipment to remove truckloads of soil from the orchard. Tall metal fences now cut the Abu Heikal home off from the orchard, leaving the house accessible by only a narrow drive. Fencing off the land, which soldiers have declared a “closed military zone,” has also isolated portions of the Tel Rumeida neighborhood, making it difficult for residents to walk to shops and the nearby mosque.
|Israelis have unearthed and desecrated what Palestinian archaeological experts believe are three Muslim graves,
constructed on bedrock with stones pointing toward Mecca. Pictured is second of three Muslim graves unearthed by
settlers digging on Tel Rumeida. In this photo, the grave has been partially removed.
|This public footpath has been fenced off
and replaced with a longer path with a
gate at each end, leading to these steep
and precarious dirt steps
According to Hamed Salem, chairperson of Birzeit University’s archaeology department, the dig is illegal and is merely an attempt to “advance the settler’s political agenda by using archaeology to justify their presence in Hebron.” An archaeologist from the Palestinian Ministry of Antiquities recently attempted to inspect the site but was denied access. The Israeli Culture Ministry and Civil Administration are financing the dig, and expect it to cost an estimated NIS seven million. Residents of Tel Rumeida fear that because such a large sum has been allocated there may be plans for much greater destruction of surrounding ancient olive trees and orchards. The Abu Heikal family is currently challenging the legality of the excavation in the Israeli Civil Court system.
Roughly midway between the Al Rajabi building and Tel Rumeida, near the Ibrahimi Mosque, settlers are attempting to gain control of five buildings: the Bouderi House and the Tomb of Abner, both directly outside the entrance to the Ibrahimi Mosque, the Ashhab Shops, across the street from the Gutnick Center, which is directly in front of the Ibrahimi Mosque, the Abu Rajab house near Checkpoint 209, and the Al-Sharif House, the front door of which opens onto the street just below the Ibrahimi Mosque. In recent months settlers and soldiers seeking to access the Al-Sharif building have attempted to open the house from the front directly below the mosque by breaking open a welded door, and have repeatedly invaded the home of the Al-Atrash family, which shares an enclosed courtyard with the Al Sharif building. If settlers are allowed to occupy these seven sites the humanitarian impacts on residents of Hebron’s Old City neighborhoods will be devastating. The targeted properties are links in a chain that, if completed, would effectively encircle the Ibrahimi Mosque and link the four existing settlements inside the Old City to the larger settlement of Kiryat Arba, which borders the Old City. This connection would cut off Palestinian neighborhoods and homes from access to schools and services, and would put all of the Old City under increased risk of settler incursions and violence. Currently about 500 settlers live in the four downtown Hebron settlements of Beit Hadassah, Avraham Avinu, Beit Romano, and Tel Rumeida. An additional 7,000 live in Kiryat Arba.
Two International Solidarity Movement activists walking on Shudaha Street area were brutally attacked by French Zionist tourists who were visiting to attend the weekly settler tour of the Palestinian part of Hebron.
At around 1:30 PM the activists were walking in the direction of Shuhada Street when the 6 young men rounded the corner, upon seeing the activists they spread across the road. Within seconds, the group attacked the ISM activists, chasing one back in the direction of the Ibrahim Mosque and continued to attack while soldiers leveled their weapons at the attacker.
The other activist was chased, tripped and kicked in the body and face by the Zionist assailant until he was chased away by the two soldiers. On gaining his feet, the activist was punched in the face by the man who had just chased his companion away. The activist ran and the army stopped his pursuer.
The incident was reported to the police, who found two of the attackers in Shuhada Street and took their details. They were not detained as it was the Sabbath when religious Jews are rarely arrested. The activists were taken to a local Police station to make a statement and overheard aggressive integration of a Palestinian prisoner.
We also received a report that an Italian tourist was attacked by 10 religious Zionists in the city on the same day of the attack. After his beating, was told that if he wants to come back he must wear a Kippah.
Israeli soldiers have shot teargas and sound grenades at children who cross checkpoints 29 and 209 on their way to school in the morning on seven of the last eight school days.
International observers and human rights workers in Hebron have witnessed Israeli soldiers repeatedly firing grenades and sound bombs into the streets near these checkpoints while children are walking to school. The children attend several schools located both in the Old City and in the area of Hebron designated as H2, on the other side of the checkpoints, and include preschool students as young as four. Depending on where they live and which school they attend, children must cross these checkpoints in both directions to reach schools both inside the old city and in H2.
Because the Israeli military does not allow buses that transport younger children to preschool and kindergarten classes in H2 to cross the checkpoints, very young children living in the Old City must walk through these checkpoint areas in order to reach their school buses.
At times, the use of teargas by soldiers has been in response to several children throwing stones, but internationals have also witnessed soldiers firing teargas canisters without provocation. In any event, because so many children pass through the same area to reach school at the same time, hundreds of children, many of them in primary grades, suffer the effects of gas on an almost daily basis. Additionally, because the agents used to manufacture teargas are actually solids, they remain inside shops, on clothing, and in the streets where children walk and play throughout the day.
Although the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) prohibits the use of teargas and pepper spray in warfare, domestic police and state forces are allowed to use these weapons on people as “riot control” agents.
Tear gas is a non-lethal chemical weapon that stimulates the corneal nerves in the eyes to cause tears, pain—which can be extreme, immediate and severe nausea, and even blindness. Longer term effects include persistent coughing, shortness of breath, and other lung-related problems (heightened in people who already have lung problems), heart and liver damage, delayed menstruation, and an increase in miscarriages and stillbirths in women exposed to the gas. The NGO Physicians for Human Rights believes that “‘tear gas’ is a misnomer for a group of poisonous gases which, far from being innocuous, have serious acute and longer-term adverse effects on the health of significant numbers of those exposed.”
In addition to the effects of the gas, the teargas cartridges fired by soldiers can cause serious injury and even death if they strike people, especially if soldiers fire the cartridges straight into crowds rather than into the air. Internationals and Palestinians report having seen soldiers fire teargas straight into the roads near these checkpoints.
The teargas used on school children in Hebron comes primarily from the United States and is manufactured primarily by Combined Systems Inc. of Jamestown, Pennsylvania and Defense Technology of Casper, Wyoming. Combined Systems Inc. (CSI)—often manufacturing under the brand name Combined Tactical Systems (CTS) are owned by Point Lookout Capital and the Carlyle Group. CSI is the primary supplier of tear gas to the Israeli military as well as a provider to Israel’s police (and border police) for use in occupied Palestine.
Defense Technology is headquartered in Casper, Wyoming. Along with U.S. company Federal Laboratories, with which it shares a product line, it has links to the U.K. arms giant BAE Systems through BAE’s ownership of U.S. arms company Armor Holdings.
The War Resisters League has launched a campaign to abolish teargas, and to encourage people who have been impacted by its use to tell their stories. The campaign seeks “the global ban of tear gas by first ending the sale, manufacture, and shipment of tear gas made in the US through organizing and applying grassroots pressure on
- companies that produce the gas,
- the US government agencies that approve the export licenses for the sale of tear gas,
- US government officials who allow for the sale and transfer of tear gas to repressive regimes abroad,
- the prison and police forces within in the US who use tear gas and similar chemical weapons such as pepper spray to threaten, injure, and torture people.”
To learn more about teargas in Palestine and throughout the world, or to add your story to the campaign, visit facingteargas.org
Hebron, Occupied Palestine – On Sunday, the 16th of February, Israeli soldiers and border police in Hebron fired tear gas and sound grenades at children on their way to school. The border police also chased the children, attempting to arrest them.
At Checkpoint 29, around 7:30 a.m., a few children on their way to school (there are three schools near the checkpoint) were throwing stones at the soldiers stationed there. In response to this two border police and a soldier appeared from an alley and threw a sound grenade at the kids close to the United Nations school on Tareq Ben Ziyad Street.
This frightened not only the children who had thrown stones but all the children on their way to school, causing them to flee. When they did not catch any children the two border police and the soldier stood in front of the school blocking the entrance and started firing teargas at those who had fled.
As the border police and the soldier returned to the checkpoint, three new soldiers came out of an apartment across the street, preventing the children from entering their school. The soldiers continued firing teargas towards the crowd of upset and frightened children.
Tear gas is a nondiscriminatory nerve gas which affects all persons nearby. The gas often takes a long time to disperse, forcing children to go through the half-dispersed gas clouds on their way to school, leaving them crying and coughing. The use of tear gas against schoolchildren is common in Hebron.
In total, seven soldiers and two border police were involved in the incident, firing six tear gas grenades and two sound grenades at the children.
Jonathon Cook writes:
I never thought I would see it. A mainstream TV programme, this one made by Australian channel ABC, that shows the occupation in all its inhuman horror.
The 45-minute investigative film concerns the Israeli army’s mistreatment of Palestinian children. Along the way, it provides absolutely devastating evidence that the children’s abuse is not some unfortunate byproduct of the occupation but the cornerstone of Israel’s system of control and its related need to destroy the fabric of Palestinian society.
Omar Barghouti has spoken of Israelis’ view of Palestinians as only “relatively human”. Here that profound racism is on full show.
There are, of course, concessions to “balance” – in the hope of minimising the backlash from Israel – but they do nothing to dilute the power of the message.
This is brave film-making of the highest order.
It is an indication of quite how exceptional this film is that it has cornered Australia’s foreign minister, Julie Bishop, into expressing her “deep concern“. That’s the same Bishop who last month doubted that the settlements in the West Bank were illegal.
If the video above is removed, you can also watch the film here:
PALESTINE: Border Police detain, humiliate and arrest men trying to go to Friday prayers; CPTer’s camera taken.
Occupied Palestine – On Wednesday 8th January, Vincent Mainville and Fabio Theodule were arrested by Israeli border police in Khalil (Hebron).
The two boys were handcuffed and taken to Jaabara police station where they were forced to kneel on the concrete floor for approximately 30 minutes. Fabio was blindfolded with his own keffiyeh and while kneeling he was pushed against the wall by Israeli border police officers and kicked in his legs.
After an hour passed, the makeshift blindfold was removed although their hands remained cuffed behind their backs for the next four to five hours.
Fabio and Vincent were questioned by Israeli forces, both refusing to sign documents that were written in Hebrew. They were went taken to Kiryat Arba police station, fingerprinted and then interrogated once again. Several hours passed and it was only at this point that they were allowed to call their legal representative.
They were transferred to a police facility near Ben Gurion airport where they were made to wait outside in a prison courtyard for two hours. Fabio asked for water and was told by a border police officer, “If you want to drink, you can drink my piss”.
Fabio and Vincent repeatedly asked for jackets or a blanket due to the cold weather, they were both ignored.
They were taken inside this facility for 30 minutes before being transferred back to Kiryat Arba police station in Khalil. Their handcuffed were removed at 12:30 at night and they were placed in a cell to sleep.
In the morning, on Thursday 9th January, Vincent and Fabio were awakened and handcuffed at 6:30 in the morning. They received no information about their situation and were not informed they had a court hearing that morning. When they arrived at court in Jerusalem they were allowed to speak to their lawyer for approximately four minutes outside the courthouse, with Israeli border police present.
After they had the short conversation with their lawyer they were taken to the immigration office in Tel Aviv. The two activists tried to refuse to enter this building as they knew their lawyer was attempting to argue against their arrest [which was eventually declared illegal]. It was at this point Israeli forces became extremely aggressive, dragging both Vincent and Fabio by their handcuffs causing their wrists to bleed.
Vincent attempted to resist as they dragged both boys up a set of stairs and it was at this point a man from the immigration center kicked him in his ribs and his face. They were taken into a room and after one hour, were able to contact their lawyer, though they were not allowed privacy for this phone call.
Vincent asked if he could file charges against the man who has beat him, and he was told he was not allowed to do this.
At this point Vincent and Fabio were given food for the first time in 25 hours.
The boys were then taken to Giv’on prison in Ramle, close to Tel Aviv. They were unable to contact their lawyer again and received no information about their case, until they were finally able to be contacted by ISM two days later.
Vincent and Fabio are very likely to be deported within the next few days, their arrest has been ruled illegal by an Israeli court but this has not made any difference to their situation. Their treatment since being arrested should serve as a reminder in terms of how Israeli forces are able to treat their prisoners, whether justified or not. However, Vincent and Fabio as internationals have received far better treatment then Palestinian prisoners. The brutal treatment of Palestinian prisoners echoes throughout Palestine and serves as a daily reminder of the Israeli occupation.
Occupied Palestine – Yesterday, Wednesday 8th January, at approximately 11am in Khalil (Hebron), Vincent Mainville and Fabio Theodule (Swiss and Italian citizens respectively), were arrested by Israeli border police officers.
The two international activists were first detained while trying to stop Israeli forces firing live ammunition and tear gas canisters towards a group of Palestinian youth and children throwing stones towards the soldiers.
Israeli forces accused the two activists of trying to assault a border police officer and obstruction of military action. Both activists are committed to non-violent solidarity work.
Vincent and Fabio were handcuffed and transferred to Jaabara police station, where they were left in the handcuffs for over three hours before finally being allowed to contact legal representation.
The two activists attended Hasharon court this morning in Jerusalem; they were escorted by Israeli border police and were handcuffed throughout the night. When they arrived in the courthouse they were escorted to several different rooms before being led outside the court without seeing their lawyer. Vincent and Fabio were then taken to the immigration center where deportation procedures were begun without a court hearing.
Although the judge later ruled that the activists had been illegally arrested, it was too late to prevent their transfer to immigration and therefore prevent their deportation.
The activists are now being held by Israeli forces and it is not known how long they will be held for before they are deported from the country.
The ruins after the fire was extinguished
AL-KHALIL (HEBRON) – On 26 December 2013, while CPTers were doing their routine monitoring of the school patrol at the Qitoun checkpoint, schoolboys threw several volleys of stones at the checkpoint for about a minute. Border police responded by throwing a sound bomb and then firing a teargas grenade.
The grenade entered the second-story window of the Al-Karaky family’s three-room apartment. They were drinking coffee when it landed in their living room and fled the house. The canister started a fire inside the house after the family left.
Everything in the small apartment—including numerous books, among them holy books such as the Qur’an—was burned or ruined by water from Hebron’s Municipal Fire Department, which arrived promptly to put the blaze out.
This incident is not the first time objects have come through the window of the Al-Karaky home, when boys have thrown stones at the checkpoint and border police have responded by firing back. “We’re always trapped between the stones and what the soldiers shoot,” a family member told a CPTer. They never expected, however, that these almost routine exchanges would result in the four people who lived there losing everything.