Hebron, Occupied Palestine – Late Thursday morning, as Palestinian schools in the Old City of occupied al-Khalil (Hebron) were dismissing their students early due to enhanced settler activity, Israeli forces harassed a Palestinian man and denied him his right of movement through the large parking lot near the base of al-Ibrahimi Mosque. The reason for this incident, as well as the increase in settler activity, was due to the week-long Jewish holiday of Sukkot, the Feast of the Tabernacles. Throughout this entire week, Israeli Forces have increased their numbers stationed around the Mosque, and it was one of these members of the occupation forces that decided to harass this Palestinian civilian.
The man, a local tour guide in the Old City of al-Khalil, entered the parking lot in order to reach a group of Turkish tourists who had just arrived. Upon setting foot in the lot, two members of the Israeli Border Police approached him, with one using his hands to physically shove him away from the cordoned off entrance. As he tried to explain that he merely wanted to pass through to reach the tourists, the border policeman raised his voice and shouted at him to get back. When the man asked why he was not allowed to pass through when so many tourists were permitted to, the answer he received was, “You are Palestinian. No Palestinians pass through here during the holiday.” The man had no choice but to turn around and walk around the parking lot.
The denial towards Palestinians of their right to movement by Israeli forces is a fundamental weapon of the occupation. By preventing Palestinians from entering historical and religious sites, and working to minimize their presence around Jewish festivities, Israel uses the excuse of the holidays to continue its process of ethnically cleaning al-Khalil of its indigenous Palestinian population. On Wednesday, Israeli Forces came out in force to block off a road in the so-called Palestinian controlled H1 area to allow settlers from the illegal Israeli settlements to have access to a supposed prayer site in the city. This is merely one of the many examples of how Jewish holidays act as a cover for forceful intimidation of Palestinians.
The harassment of this man this morning is symptomatic of the devaluation of Palestinian life under the Israeli occupation across the land of Palestine.
Hebron, Occupied Palestine – This past week marked the feast of Sukkot, which brought settlers from illegal settlements all over the occupied West Bank to al-Khalil (Hebron). There, with restrictions, harassment, collective punishment and intimidation of Palestinians – all in favor of the illegal settlers – the spirit of the Jewish holiday was turned into a feast of intimidation and oppression for the Palestinian residents, going hand in hand with increasing illegal annexation of their land.
With bus-loads of settlers from all over the illegally occupied Palestinian West Bank pouring into al-Khalil, Israeli forces stepped up the movement-restrictions and checkpoint closures for Palestinians even more, thus making the maze of checkpoints, already almost impossible to navigate into a maze that ends mainly in dead-ends. For several days, the main checkpoint connecting the Palestinian market with the area around the Ibrahimi Mosque was closed for Palestinians, and Palestinian shop-owners in the mosque-area were forced shut by the Israeli forces – all to facilitate settler movement in areas that lack any presence of Palestinians.
The road connecting the settlements in the heart of al-Khalil with the Kiryat Arba settlement on the outskirts of al-Khalil – where only settlers are allowed to drive – has largely been cordonned off with police-barriers.
Thus, school-children were not only forced to pass an even larger amount of heavily-armed military and police forces, but also navigate the maze of complete closures for Palestinians, areas to avoid due to excessive settler presence and the gates put up preventing movement in certain directions.
Students of al-Faihaa girls school in the Ibrahimi Mosque area, where just recently a new CCTV surveillance tower was put up following and recording every step of the Palestinian residents movement, are now studying right next to a military encampment. The building right next to the girls school entrance has already been mis-used and turned into a military encampement during last year’s Sukkot celebrations.
On Tuesday, many of the settlers arriving to al-Khalil on the occassion of the holiday, were ‘guided’ through the Palestinian market by Israeli forces, preventing Palestinians’ access in their own marketplace for hours. Just a day later, soldiers effectively imposed a curfew on the tiny strip of Shuhada Street where Palestinians are still allowed to walk, the Tel Rumeida neighborhood and the Bab al-Zawwiya area. The latter is located in the H1 area of al-Khalil, supposedly under full Palestinian control. With the closure of Shuhada checkpoint for six hours, Palestinian civilians were either locked inside or outside their houses, while settlers were accompanied by heavily armed military forces to a tomb located in the H1-area, forcing shop-owners to close.
On Thursday morning, Israeli forces marched through the streets of al-Khalil, with drums and music, in a pure show of force and power. The march went on the settler only road, that has been ethnically cleansed from Palestinian cars (but does still allow Palestinian pedestrians), illustrating the continuous plans and attempts to connect the illegal settlements in an area ethnically cleansed of any Palestinian presence.
Throughout the increasing efforts to illegally annex more and more strips of land, and erase first the memory of the Palestinian heritage as a step to then erase the whole Palestinian population, Israeli forces are employing the ‘power of words’. More and more areas, streets and houses that belong to Palestinians, but in which settlers have already moved in (and were succinctly kicked out by the army), are given Hebrew names, eradicating the Palestinian names. This is just one small step of illegal annexation that even goes so far to call the illegal Israeli settlements in the city center of al-Khalil “Jewish neighborhoods”.
With the holiday of Sukkot lasting for another three days, more restrictions and harassment are expected. And even with the end of the holiday, the restrictions, harassment and intimidation of Palestinian civilians solely and deliberately on the ground of their ethnic group, with the continuous illegal annexation of the land, will not stop as long as the illegal occupation is allowed by the international community to continue their efforts of ethnic cleansing.
A draft decision by UNESCO, which criticises Israel’s activities at holy places in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem, has been denounced by Israeli officials. “It ignores thousands of years of Jewish ties to Jerusalem and aids Islamist terror,” claimed Education Minister Naftali Bennett very dramatically.
Never one to miss an opportunity to conflate Judaism and Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a Facebook post that UNESCO had become a “theatre of the absurd”, to which he added: “To say that Israel has no connection to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall is like saying that China has no connection to the Great Wall of China or that Egypt has no connection to the pyramids.”
The World Jewish Congress, meanwhile, called UNESCO’s announcement an “inflammatory, one-sided decision” as Israel took the predictable step of freezing co-operation with the UN cultural body which seeks to “contribute to peace and security” by safeguarding world heritage and cultural sites.
The UNESCO decision, however, does none of the things that the Israelis and their supporters claim. The draft decision “affirms the importance of the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls for the three monotheistic religions” while also affirming that “nothing in the current decision, which aims, inter alia, at the safeguarding of the cultural heritage of Palestine and the distinctive character of East Jerusalem, shall in any way affect the relevant Security Council and United Nations resolutions and decisions on the legal status of Palestine and Jerusalem”.
Israel’s problem with the UNESCO decision emanates from the simple fact that it has no way of reconciling its colonialist policies in the West Bank and Gaza with international law. Israeli officials were just as quick to denounce the International Court of Justice’s decision on its construction of the “separation” wall or the dozens of UN Security Council resolutions condemning the construction of illegal settlements. Like its condemnation of the UNESCO decision, Israel extorts political gain by claiming security concerns and its fight against “Islamist terrorism”.
The 58 member of the UNESCO board voted this week on a draft document that raises concerns about Israel’s violation of international law. Israel, predictably, hopes to deflect these concerns by conflating Jewish history with Israeli policy. The draft text, which was passed by 24 votes in favour to six against, with 26 abstentions, noted the following:
- The failure of Israel, the Occupying Power, to cease the persistent excavations and works in East Jerusalem particularly in and around the Old City and reiterates the request to Israel to prohibit all such works in conformity with its obligations under the provisions of the relevant UNESCO conventions, resolutions and decisions;
- Called on Israel, the Occupying Power, to allow for the restoration of the historic status quo;
- Strongly condemned the escalating Israeli aggressions and illegal measures against the Awqaf [Religious Endowments] Department and its personnel, and against the freedom of worship and Muslims’ access to their Holy Site;
- Deplored the continuous storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque by right-wing Israeli extremists and uniformed forces, and urges Israel, the Occupying Power, to take necessary measures to prevent provocative abuses that violate the sanctity and integrity of Al-Aqsa Mosque;
- Deeply decries the continuous Israeli aggressions against civilians including Islamic religious figures and priests, and urges Israel, the Occupying Power, to end these aggressions and abuses which inflame the tension on the ground and between faiths;
- Disapproves of the Israeli restriction of access to Al-Aqsa Mosque and called on Israel to stop all violations against Al-Aqsa Mosque;
- Criticised Israel’s refusal to grant visas to UNESCO experts in charge of the UNESCO project at the Centre of Islamic Manuscripts in Al-Aqsa Mosque;
Raised concern regarding the illegal demolitions of Umayyad, Ottoman and Mamluk remains as well as other intrusive works and excavations in and around the Mughrabi Gate Pathway, and also requests Israel, to halt such demolitions, excavations and works and to abide by its obligations under the provisions of the UNESCO conventions.
The draft resolution, which also goes on to deplore the continuous Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip and reaffirms the integral link between Palestine and the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron, is a full scale condemnation of Israel’s total lack of disregard for Al-Aqsa Mosque, and its refusal to act in accordance with UNESCOs recommendation in maintaining the sanctity of the religious sites that are holy to all three Abrahamic faiths. Despite the best efforts of Israeli officials to paint this decision as yet another anti-Jewish declaration it is actually nothing of the sort.
A UN body such as UNESCO has a duty to highlight Israel’s ongoing annexation and colonisation of Palestine. It has an even bigger obligation to raise awareness of the systematic efforts by hostile parties — no matter who they are — to seize control of world heritage sites. Only in the eyes of Israel — the Occupying Power, remember — could that be seen as “inflammatory”.
Hebron, Occupied Palestine – Israeli forces put up a CCTV observation tower in the Ibrahimi mosque area, further increasing not only their all-encompassing surveillance of Palestinians, but also their slow but steady illegal annexation of more and more Palestinian land in occupied al-Khalil (Hebron).
At the end of last week, Israeli forces in a ‘secret’ over-night action put up the observation tower, surrounded by dozens of cement blocks and barbed-wire. Located in a corner between Palestinian houses, the observation post with a container and all the surrounding paraphernalia is just another step in the illegal annexation of yet more land. In recent weeks, Israeli forces have increased their illegal annexations of the tiny strip of Shuhada Street still accessible to Palestinian pedestrians and stepped up the game of creating a coercive environment directly leading to forced displacement of Palestinians in the Tel Rumeida area.
This observation tower is fitted with a camera that reaches high above the houses in the neighborhood, thus watching Palestinians constantly. This feeling of permanently being watched for Palestinians is combined with the ever present controls and humiliations at the more-and-more militarized checkpoints. Palestinians are watched, humiliated, numbered, deprived of their most basic human rights – occupied not only physically by the Israeli occupation forces, but also mentally. They can never tell whether they’ll be allowed through a checkpoint (something that solely depends on the respective soldiers whim), whether their children will be tear-gassed on their way to school or arrested, or even whether they’ll be gunned down by Israeli forces at a checkpoint and left to bleed to death. Any and all of these forms of collective punishment are enforced by the Israeli occupying forces on the entire population of civilians in complete disregard of any care for international law or humane treatment of the occupied indigenous Palestinian population.
The Tel Rumeida neighborhood, Shuhada Street, and the area around the Ibrahimi Mosque are already linked by a settler-only street that has been ethnically cleansed of Palestinians in the aftermath of the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre. Restrictions in the Tel Rumeida neighborhood (declared a ‘closed military zone’ solely enforced on Palestinian residents for almost a year now) and around the Ibrahimi Mosque (where Palestinians are often prevented from passing checkpoints on a age-limit between 15-30) have escalated in a very short amount of time, making life for the Palstinians as hard – or rather impossible – as possible, leaving them with no choice than to leave. The only and clear aim is the forcible transfer of all Palestinians in this area, thus geographically linking the illegal settlements in an area ethnically cleansed of any Palestinian presence.
Israeli authorities have decided to close the Ibrahimi Mosque, in the heart of the occupied West Bank city of al-Khalil (Hebron), to Palestinians, Muslim worshipers and non-Jewish visitors for seven non-consecutive days.
Yousif Ideis, the Palestinian minister of endowment and religious affairs, said on Sunday that the sacred site will be closed to Palestinians and non-Jews on October 3, 4, 9, 12, 18, 19 and 26.
Israeli officials have said the shutdown is aimed at maintaining security in the wake of Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement), Sukkot (Feast of Booths) and Simchat Torah holidays.
Ideis added that dozens of illegal Israeli settlers broke into the mosque courtyard on Saturday night amid protection by Israeli troopers.
In the meantime, Israeli authorities are closing all passageways between the blockaded Gaza Strip and Israel, as well as between the occupied West Bank and Israel for Rosh Hashanah.
Israeli officials regularly impose stringent restrictions for Palestinians during Jewish holidays for alleged security purposes.
The constraints include denied access to the Ibrahimi Mosque, which is revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims and has been the site of violent tensions between Israelis and Palestinians for decades.
On February 25, 1994, at least 29 Palestinians were killed and 125 others wounded when American-Israeli Baruch Goldstein opened fire on a large number of Palestinian Muslims, who had gathered inside the Ibrahimi Mosque to say prayers during the holy fasting month of Ramadan.
The occupied territories have already been the scene of increased tensions ever since Israeli forces imposed restrictions on the entry of Palestinian worshipers into the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem al-Quds in August 2015.
Nearly 250 Palestinians have lost their lives at the hands of Israeli forces since the beginning of last October.
HEBRON – Israeli forces reopened the northern entrance to the village of Beit Ummar north of Hebron City on Thursday, after the road had been closed by Israeli authorities for four days to carry out maintenance work on an Israeli military watchtower stationed there.
Local activist Muhammad Ayad Awad said that the maintenance work expanded the military watchtower and narrowed the street, which is the main entrance to the village, to one lane instead of two lanes as before.
He said that the development will have a negative impact on the daily lives of Beit Ummar’s residents, forcing them to live under continuous Israeli surveillance and increase traffic congestion in the village.
Awad added that Israeli forces continued the closure of a sub-entrance near the village’s central vegetable market, which he said has been closed for five years.
The road was closed amid a heightened Israeli military presence in the Hebron district in the wake of a number of alleged attacks committed by Palestinians in the area, with the Israeli army adding an additional battalion to the district and setting up several road blocks throughout the district, while blocking off the village of Bani Naim and the Old City’s Tel Rumeida area entirely.
A Palestinian journalist checks damages after Israeli forces raided offices of local Palestinian Al-Khalil radio overnight in Hebron on November 21, 2015
HEBRON – Israeli forces raided and ransacked a Palestinian radio station early Wednesday morning in Dura City in the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron, detained five of the station’s employees, and ordered it closed for three months, amid a documented escalation of violations against media freedoms by Israeli forces in the occupied Palestinian territory.
Locals told Ma’an that Israeli forces raided al-Sanabel radio station, destroyed its contents, and confiscated transmission and broadcast equipment.
Israeli forces left a closure order on the door of the radio station.
Locals added that Israeli forces detained head of the radio station Ahmad al-Darawish, as well as radio employees Muhammad al-Sus, Nidal Amro, Muntaser Nassar, and Hamed al-Nammura after raiding their homes.
Spokesperson for the Israeli army Avichay Adraee said in a statement in Arabic that Israeli forces, police, and civil administration authorities closed al-Sanabel upon a military order that claimed that the radio station broadcast programs inciting against Israel.
Adraee added that the five detainees were transferred for interrogation.
News of the closure came after Palestinian press freedoms watchdog MADA released a report on Saturday saying Israeli violations against media freedoms in the occupied Palestinian territory increased by 17 percent during the first half of 2016.
MADA General Director Moussa Rimawi said in the semi-annual report that while the total number of violations by both Israeli and Palestinian authorities declined from 224 cases in the first half of 2015 to 198 in the first half of this year — a rate of 12 percent — Israeli violations continued to climb, as Palestinian authorities committed 41 percent less violations during the same period.
A total of 133 violations committed by Israel were recorded during the period.
The most common types of violations committed by Israel were physical attacks, arrests, confiscation of equipment, prevention of coverage, and detentions.
The report highlighted that Israeli authorities in March closed two media institutions — Falastin al-Yawm and TransMedia Production Company — after ransacking and confiscated equipment from their offices.
Meanwhile, some 23 journalists and media workers were detained between January and June of 2016.
The report also noted an escalation of the Israeli practice of detaining Palestinians for social media activity, with Israeli authorities alleging that a wave of unrest that swept the occupied Palestinian territory last October was encouraged largely by “incitement.”
Palestinians have instead pointed chiefly to the frustration and despair brought on by Israel’s nearly 50-year military occupation of the Palestinian territory and the absence of a political horizon.
MADA said in the report that they were “gravely concerned regarding all systematic attacks and violence against journalists and media workers by the Israeli occupation, and urges state members to do their utmost to prevent violence against journalists, to ensure accountability, and bring to justice perpetrators of crimes against media freedoms.”
When writer Michael Chabon visited the West Bank city of Hebron earlier this year, the brutal reality of the Israeli occupation hit him with force. During an interview with the Forward, he appeared “visibly jarred,” and he pulled no punches in describing his reaction.
“Once you see for yourself,” he said, “it is pretty obvious, I think, to any human being with a heart and a mind, it is pretty clear what to feel about it. It is the most grievous injustice I have ever seen in my life.”
His reaction echoes in the words of another author, Ben Ehrenreich, who recently published a book about the occupation, “The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine.” In his introduction Ehrenreich refers to “the awful clarity of the injustice,” and his book portrays Palestinian resistance under Israel’s state-sponsored system of oppression.
Both these American writers are saying that the suffering of Palestinians under Israeli rule is clear to see, an obvious truth to anyone who witnesses the situation firsthand.
Now, as Peter Baker, the latest New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief, takes up his post, we can ask whether the newspaper will begin to convey this reality to its readers. Will Baker, a fresh new witness with full access to the sites under occupation, give voice to the oppression seen with such clarity by Ehrenreich and Chabon?
Baker’s predecessor, Jodi Rudoren, who left Jerusalem late last year, filed hundreds of stories over nearly four years at the post and managed not to clarify but to obscure the reality of occupation and dispossession. Her stories promoted a narrative of Israeli victimhood and Palestinian violence and deflected Israeli culpability. (See TimesWarp 12-22-15.)
Many voices vied for attention during her stint, but Rudoren turned a deaf ear to some of the most respected sources of information, not only the United Nations and human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch but also Israeli monitoring groups and courageous Israeli journalists. These groups and individuals were constantly documenting and reporting abuses by the Israeli forces, but the news they bore rarely found even brief mention in the Times.
When a series of stabbing and vehicular attacks on Israelis began last fall, several monitoring groups issued alerts, charging that Israeli forces were using the situation to conduct “street executions” of Palestinians who actually posed no threat.
These accusations were bolstered by video and eyewitness evidence and came from groups such as the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, Amnesty International and Euro-Med Monitor. To give even more weight to their claims, a group of nine Israeli organizations, including Physicians for Human Rights and the Public Committee Against Torture, issued a joint statement saying Israeli officials were responsible for the climate that fostered these executions.
The Times took little notice. The newspaper’s headlines remained focused on Palestinian attacks, and any quotes about extrajudicial executions were attributed to Palestinian officials, as if these charges were nothing more than the opinions of partisans taking one side in a bitter exchange.
Anticipating Baker’s arrival in Jerusalem, the Times produced a video featuring him in conversation with Rudoren and another former Jerusalem bureau chief, James Bennet. The trio made many references to “the conflict” (with only a single mention of the occupation), and they insisted that Times reporting strives to be balanced and neutral.
If reporters were sincerely looking for balance, however, it would seem that truly neutral parties, such as the United Nations and human rights organizations, would provide an essential antidote to the partisan claims of two adversaries. Yet the Times turns a deaf ear to these sources, no matter how fully documented their findings are, and relies heavily on Israeli officials.
Thus, Times readers are left in ignorance, hearing almost nothing about urgent and repeated appeals from these non-partisan groups. Beyond the latest accusations of extrajudicial killings, for instance, rights organizations have consistently highlighted the mistreatment of Palestinian children held in Israeli custody and the demolition of Palestinian structures, including everything from homes and workshops to cisterns and animal shelters.
Organizations such as UNICEF, Defence for Children International, Save the Children, B’Tselem, Human Rights Watch, the UN Committee for the Rights of the Child and the Committee Against Torture in Israel have tried over several years to publicize the abuse of Palestinian children (See TW 1-13-14.), but the Times has rarely mentioned these reports and then only in stories aimed to spin the information in favor of Israel.
Throughout 2015 some of these groups continued to issue frequent reports and news releases with headlines such as “Rising physical violence against Palestinian child detainees,” “UNICEF report confirms ill-treatment of Palestinian child detainees remains systematic,” and “New U.S. government report highlights violations against Palestinian kids,” but the Times showed no interest in exploring the problem.
Likewise, Israel’s rampage of demolitions in the West Bank is never brought to the attention of Times readers although the United Nations, B’Tselem, Human Rights Watch and other groups have issued frequent statements and demands, urging Israel to end its policy of destruction.
While the Times has remained silent, Gideon Levy and Amira Hass, columnists for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, have often written about the terrible toll demolitions have exacted from some of the most vulnerable Palestinian communities.
Rudoren wrote occasionally about punitive demolitions, the Israeli policy of destroying the family homes of attackers, but her stories omitted any mention of the much more common demolition of structures because they lack building permits, which are rarely issued.
The policy is a constant threat to Palestinians in a large part of the West Bank, and over the decades of occupation, the state has demolished more than 48,000 Palestinian homes and other structures.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Israel has destroyed 726 Palestinian structures so far this year, displacing 1,020 people. In a recent report, OCHA noted that during one week this month, 42 structures were demolished or confiscated. The report stated, “Twelve of the targeted structures had been previously provided as humanitarian assistance, including emergency shelters, animal sheds, latrines, a community centre, and a water connection; the confiscation of the latter means that nearly 1,000 Palestinians in five herding communities in the Jordan Valley will continue to suffer water scarcity.”
The OCHA report continued, “This brings the number of assistance items destroyed or confiscated since the start of 2016 to 200, almost double the figure for the entire 2015 (108).” In other words, donors such as the European Union and International Committee of the Red Cross have stepped in to provide tents and other items when Israel has destroyed Palestinian homes, schools, playgrounds, water wells and other structures, but the Israeli authorities have demolished even this humanitarian aid.
In this brief report from OCHA “the awful clarity of the injustice” is evident, as it has been evident in hundreds of other reports issued over the years. The rising tide of demolitions, with all its human-interest value, is most certainly newsworthy, but will the Jerusalem bureau of The New York Times report it?
So far the Times seems determined to muddy the waters, avoiding a clear exposition of Israeli brutality, but with a new bureau chief now on board, some readers may hold out a faint hope for change, for an honest and full accounting at last.
Unfortunately, here at TimesWarp, the expectation is for more of the same. It seems unlikely that the Times would allow any straightforward reporting on Israeli oppression to appear in its pages. This would destroy its carefully fostered narrative of Israeli victimhood, “ancient hatreds” and the need to place Israeli security needs above all.
Israeli army withdraws from Al-Fawwar, after killing one Palestinian, injuring 59, and searching dozens of homes
The Israeli army withdrew, late on Tuesday at night, from the al-Fawwar refugee camp, south of Hebron, in the southern part of the occupied West Bank, after concluding a massive military invasion, leading to the death of one Palestinian, while at least 59 others have been injured and dozens of homes invaded and ransacked.
Dr. Waleed Zalloum, the general director of the Hebron Governmental hospital, said 38 Palestinians were moved to the medical center, and that most of them were shot in their legs, thighs and arms.
Zalloum added that one Palestinian, identified as Mohammad Yousef Saber Abu Hashhash, 17, was fatally shot in the chest and died shortly after being moved to a hospital.
Dozens of residents, including many children and elderly, suffered severe effects of tear gas inhalation, and received the needed treatment.
Dr. Yousef Takrouri, the general director of the Al-Ahli Hospital in Hebron, said five Palestinians were moved to the medical center; all were shot with live rounds, four in the legs and one in the chest.
In addition, one Palestinian was moved to the Rafidia Hospital, in the northern West Bank city of Nablus, after the soldiers shot him with an expanding bullet in the leg, and another was moved to a hospital in Ramallah, when the soldiers shot him with a similar round in his left shoulder.
Many Palestinian families said the soldiers violently invaded their homes and searched them, and accused the military of stealing gold and cash during the searches.
Amjad Najjar, the head of the Hebron office of the Palestinian Prisoners Society (PPS) said the soldiers invaded his home in the al-Fawwar refugee camp, before forcing him and his family in one room, and violently searched the property, causing excessive damage.
Najjar added that the soldiers stole gold and cash from the family home, and that the search of the property lasted for more than four hours.
During the invasion into the refugee camp, the soldiers conducted home-to-home searches, causing excessive property damage, in addition to interrogating dozens of families and photographing them.
The Israeli invasion into the camp was initiated at dawn, Tuesday; the army said it was looking for weapons and claimed that the soldiers “located two pistols, one commando knife, sound bombs and dozens of live rounds.
Hebron, Occupied Palestine – On Sunday, 31st July 2016, Israeli forces in the Old City souq, the Palestinian market, of occupied al-Khalil (Hebron), were searching for a group of three Palestinian boys. Claiming they were throwing stones, Israeli forces were searching for them in order to arrest and incarcerate them.
A group of Israeli soldiers went into the Palestinian market in search for the children they claimed were throwing stones, stopping any child they encountered on their way, that more or less fit the age-group of around 10-14 years old. They stopped and questioned a 12-year old boy at Bab al-Baladiyya, one of the entrance and exit-points for the soldiers to enter from the illegal settlements located on Shuhada Street into the Palestinian market. Without any family or a lawyer present, the soldiers questioned the boy, first claiming that he was throwing stones and threatening to arrest him and take him to the police station. Only because of the intervention of a local, the boy wasn’t kidnapped by the Israeli forces, which eventually admitted that the video-evidence they have does not even show him. Still, they claimed that he was there and thus were attempting to force him into giving information.
After they finally allowed the boy to leave, they arbitrarily stopped any child that fit their age group to question them about their whereabouts and where they were going, even entering a Palestinian shop to interrogate a child. After about half an hour, they gave up their search, but approached human rights observers to ‘justify’ their behaviour, showing them a video on a phone that showed a boy throwing small stones, at a securely fenced military tower, without any possibility of the pebbles even hurting anyone. Despite only one boy throwing these small stones, Israeli forces were out looking for all the three children in the video. Israeli forces ‘justified’ their search for the children to the human rights observers, stating that because of what can be seen in the video, they went out to look for ‘a boy in a white T-Shirt’ – despite the boy in the video clearly wearing a green T-Shirt. In spite of both these facts, they stopped and interrogated any child loosely fitting the age-group of around 10-14.
In the evening, Israeli forces again entered the market, to stop, harass and question children fitting this age-group, and another arrest of an arbitrarily picked child could only be prevented by the intervention of a local.
The fact that the arrest of any children under the age of 12 is illegal even under Israeli military law that applies to all Palestinians in the West Bank, did not bother the Israeli forces. Despite the boy in the video clearly being less than 12 years old, they went out to hunt down children that are below the legal age for arrest even under the apartheid military law, the orders in clear violation of not only international law, but even the racist and apartheid Israeli military law.
Hebron, Occupied Palestine – In occupied al-Khalil (Hebron), possibilities for Palestinian children to play are scarce. With the help of the Playgrounds for Palestine project, a brand-new playground was installed at Qurtuba school in the Tel Rumeida neighborhood of al-Khalil.
Right to play – can you imagine that as a child, when playing, you’d need to be scared of being attacked, your parents worried whenever you’re out playing, and playing with your friends and enjoying something that is denied to you by a foreign occupying army?
The Tel Rumeida neighborhood is in the H2 area of al-Khalil, under full Israeli military control. After more than six months of collective punishment by the means of a ‘closed military zone’, deliberately designed to affect only the Palestinian population, this measure was officially lifted on 14th May 2016. Despite the lifting of some of the measures intended to forcibly displace the Palestinian population – and thus only a slightly disguised attempt at forced displacement, many of the restrictions applying on Palestinians have remained in place.
A staircase leading to Qurtuba school at the end of the tiny strip of Shuhada Street where Palestinian pedestrians are still allowed to be, is still under a complete closure – for Palestinians, whereas settlers, Israeli forces and anyone resembling a tourist is allowed to pass freely. This apartheid measure severs all the families accessing their homes through these stairs, as well as visitors to the Muslim cemetery and a weekly second-hand market of their main access, forcing them to take long detours. The many restrictions have also forced the project to carry large amounts of the materials through the neighborhood, as Palestinian cars are not allowed in the area. On one day, the workers were prevented from continuing their work on the playground and forced to leave by Israeli forces.
For the children growing up in this area, childhood is short. Child-arrests, even of children less than 12 years and thus illegal even under Israeli military law that is universally applied on the Palestinian population in the Israeli occupied West Bank, are not uncommon, as are humiliations and intimidations by the Israeli forces and settlers under the full protection of the Israeli forces.
The right to play, for Palestinian children, is only a theoretical concept, that often lacks any practical meaning, when growing up next to illegal settlements under a foreign military occupation. Playing on the streets of their neighborhood for most children is dangerous, as settlers do not even restrain from attacking children. In a nearby Palestinian kindergarten, Israeli settlers overnight stole a large roll of artificial grass intended to be part of the play-area for the children attending the kindergarten. With no institution to address this, the artificial grass is merely lost and missing in the play-area.
The installation of the playground at Qurtuba school, thus, is a sign of hope for the Palestinian children. An opportunity for the children to be exactly that: children. To play with their friends and enjoy their childhood, have fun and laugh.