Hebron, Occupied Palestine – During this week’s ‘Pessach’ celebrations from 22nd to 29th April, Israeli settlers and Israeli forces throughout occupied al-Khalil (Hebron) have been taking over Palestinians houses, rooftops, streets and entire areas while denying passage for Palestinians.
Last Friday night, with the start of the ‘holiday’, large groups of settlers were going from the illegal Kiryat Arba settlement on the outskirts of al-Khalil, towards the Ibrahimi mosque, 60% of which has been taken over by the settlers that installed a ‘synagogue’ following the 1994 Ibrahimi mosque massacre; while Palestinians were stopped, frisked and delayed.
On Monday and Tuesday, Palestinians’ movement was entirely restricted and H2 was completely void of any Palestinian presence in order to facilitate the settler’s freedom of movement and to enable a space for the main ‘Pessach celebrations’. During these two days the checkpoint at the Ibrahimi mosque has remained closed, thus closing off the main entrance for Palestinians heading to the mosque. Palestinians were entirely barred from entering the mosque during these two days, while settlers used the additional 40% of the mosque that has so far remained for Palestinians – with the ‘usual’ entry restrictions and harassment by Israeli forces.
While bus loads of settlers from all over Palestine are arriving in the Old City of al-Khalil, new barricades, entry and movement restrictions for Palestinians are springing up throughout the city. Al-Faiha’a girls school, right opposite the parking lot used for the settler only buses, has been forced to finish early in order to at least attempt to provide a safe way home for the girls, despite the heavy army and settler presence. During Monday and Tuesday, a sharp decrease in the number of girls attending school was noted by both the teachers and international human rights defenders offering protective presence. Israeli forces have also taken control of two shops right next to the school building and turned it into a military base.
On Monday, Israeli forces escorted endless groups of settlers on a ‘tour’ through the main Palestinian market in the Old City during the busy noon hours – blocking the narrow alleyways while giving a Zionist version of the history of the city. Palestinians were stopped and forced to wait for the tours to pass. One Palestinian man was arrested while another one was seriously injured when settlers threw a rock into the Palestinian market hitting him right on the head.
Despite the area behind Shuhada checkpoint being H1 and thus supposedly under full Palestinian control, Israeli forces on Tuesday brought large groups of settlers, after ‘clearing’ the area for bombs, in a sheer show of their power and in total disregard of any (international) agreement. Shuhada checkpoint has during the ‘holiday’ season seen repeated and arbitrary delays, causing Palestinians to wait for, at times, hours to be allowed to go to their homes located in the ‘closed military zone’ while settlers were freely roaming the streets and could be seen from the checkpoint chit-chatting with the soldiers.
Hebron, Occupied Palestine – At around 11.30am on Tuesday 26 April, heavily armed Israeli occupation soldiers and border police started appearing in large numbers through Shuhada checkpoint (also called checkpoint 56). This area is H1 area, supposedly controlled by the Palestinian Authority, where Israelis have no legal authority. In blatant disregard of this fact they proceeded to walk down Bir Saba Street, stopping at each shop demanding all cars on the street were removed, but did not make the shops close as they usually do. At the same time the soldiers closed Shuhada checkpoint for registered resident Palestinians, who could neither leave or enter to reach their homes.
The soldiers moved up and down the street, ensuring their demands were met and the cars removed. Where they could not find the owners, they broke into cars to search for explosives. While this was ongoing, more soldiers and border police arrived blocking off the road at the other end from the checkpoint. A sniffer dog was led up and down the street by the soldiers to also search for non existent explosives. The army rummaged around rubbish piles along the road, or made local shop keepers move rubbish for them to inspect, leaving a mess for the Palestinians to clean up.
Occupation soldiers searching for explosives outside local shops. Photo credit: ISM
Several hours later, having also made locals move off the road and sit on the pavement, the reason for this elaborate exercise was clear when a group of approximately 40 settlers, escorted by the same number of border police and soldiers, moved from the illegal settlement inside Shuhada checkpoint into Palestinian territory down the road to a clearly revered tomb, where they spent ten minutes or so. They were then escorted back into the illegal settlement, and followed by five subsequent groups of illegal settlers, again escorted by police and army.
Illegal settlers escorted by occupation soldiers and border police to the tomb in H1. Photo credit: ISM
Local and international activists were present at several points along the road to monitor and photograph events, and any incidents. When the settlers walked past several of them took photos and/or filmed the activists along the road, for unknown reasons. One settler asked where the internationals were from, and welcomed them to Israel. Not only was this factually inaccurate and a disregard of the Oslo agreement, but a highly insensitive and conflictual comment, made on Palestinian territory.
At three o’clock the “tours” were finished and all the settlers escorted back through the checkpoint into H2 area, where large groups of Palestinians live under Israeli military control. A day of trading was lost for the local shops keepers; not to mention that an Israeli incursion into a Palestinian area is illegal and unacceptable.
BETHLEHEM – Palestinian shop owners were forced to close their storefronts in Hebron Tuesday as Israeli politicians called for the annexation of the occupied city during visits by thousands of right-wingers for Passover.
Hebron local and prominent activist Issa Amro told Ma’an that Israeli forces instructed shopkeepers in both the H1 and H2 areas of Hebron to remain closed.
Amro said that by forcing shops to close in H1 — the area of the city under jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority — the Israeli authorities were supporting right-wing Israelis aiming to push Palestinian locals from the city.
“They want to make it look [to Israeli settlers] like Palestinians don’t live here,” Amro said.
The closures of shops in H1 is likely to come as a detriment to shop owners’ livelihoods while road closures typically implemented by Israeli forces during the visits will impede the movement of Palestinians throughout the Hebron district, Amro added.
The H2 area, under full Israeli military control, continued under lockdown as the Ibrahimi Mosque — known to Jews as the Cave of Patriarchs — was sealed to Palestinian Muslims for the second consecutive day as Israelis visited holy sites in and around the Old City, Amro said.
Amro told Ma’an that large groups of Israelis visiting the area under armed protection on Monday launched verbal abuse at Palestinian locals, and several Palestinian families refused to leave their homes out of fear of violence from the groups.
An Israeli army spokesperson did not have immediate information on increased security measures or closure in the Hebron area for Passover.
Thousands of Israelis descended on Hebron’s Old City Monday as Israeli politicians held a rally in the center of the flashpoint area, under heavy protection by Israeli security forces.
Israeli media outlets reported that Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan of the Habayit HaYehudi party called on the Israeli leadership to annex the occupied West Bank in its entirety.
“We have to connect Judea and Samaria to the State of Israel. We have returned to our land, so that we will never again have to leave it,” Ben-Dahan said, referring to the West Bank.
Knesset member Oren Hazan, of the Likud party, demanded Israel’s defense ministry allow more Jewish Israelis to settle in Hebron, referring specifically to two buildings reportedly purchased by far-right groups.
“The buildings in Hebron are the basis of peace, not dispute. The time has come to populate Hebron, just as the time has come to populate every hilltop in Judea and Samaria and in all of Israel,” the Jerusalem Post reported Hazan as saying.
Hebron — the largest Palestinian city in the West Bank — has long stood at the epicenter of violence in the occupied West Bank as the Israeli military and settlers attempt to expel Palestinians from their homes, particularly in the Old City where Monday’s rally took place.
The Israeli leadership has long ignored demands by the international community to halt settlement activity in occupied Palestinian territory, and the UN has in the past slammed Israel for expansion of settlements in Hebron’s Old City in particular, where increased Jewish presence has come at the detriment to Palestinian locals.
Emily Mulder contributed reporting from Bethlehem.
Israeli soldiers closed the main entrance of the Hebron Emergency Center, run by the Hebron Health Committees, by placing concrete blocks, completely sealing it, and deployed dozens of soldiers on its rooftop on Monday morning.
Dr. Ramzi Abu Yousef, director of the Health Work Committees (HWC) in Hebron, said many soldiers occupied the center’s rooftop, and turned it into a military base.
Abu Yousef warned of the consequences of this violation, especially since the center receives hundreds of patients on a daily basis, and added that the center provides its medical services to more than 60,000 Palestinians.
“For years now, the center has been subject to frequent Israeli military violations, including many invasions, and the soldiers even fired gas bombs at it,” Abu Yousef said, “They also repeatedly sprayed it with waste-water mixed with chemicals, in addition to harassing the patients and their families, and the various measures restricting their freedom of movement.”
The HWC voiced an urgent appeal to various human rights groups to intervene, and provide the needed protection to Palestinian health centers, in addition to pressuring Israel into halting its serious violations.
“People who need medical care have the right to receive it, but Israel continues to violate it,” the HWC added, “International Humanitarian Law stresses on the importance of unrestricted access to medical facilities.”
Hebron, occupied Palestine – Yesterday, Elor Azraya, a soldier in the Israeli army, infamous for the extrajudicial execution of Abed al-Fattah al-Sharif in occupied al-Khalil (Hebron), has been released to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Pessach with his family.
21-year old Abed al-Fattah al-Sharif was lying on the ground incapacitated after what Israeli forces claim was a knife-attack by him and Ramzi al-Qasrawi against Israeli soldiers stationed at Gilbert checkpoint in the Tel Rumeida neighbourhood of occupied al-Khalil. In a video that was captured by human rights defender Emad Abu Shamsiyyah, who has since been receiving death threats from settlers, Elor Azraya can be seen cocking his gun and executing the unconscious Abed al-Fattah with a shot in the head. With blood and brain matter starting to seep from the wound in his head, it is obvious that Abed al-Fattah was still alive when executed in cold-blood by Elor Azraya.
*** WARNING*** the following video contains extremely graphic material. A soldier is seen executing one of the Palestinian men at 1:52. Video-credit: Emad Abu Shamsiya
The neighbourhood of Tel Rumeida and the tiny strip of Shuhada Street where Palestinians are still ‘allowed’ to walk after the 1994 Ibrahimi mosque massacre, have been declared a ‘closed military zone’ since 1st November 2015 in an act of collective punishment against the whole Palestinian population. The increase of humiliating and racist ‘security-controls’ towards only the Palestinian residents by Israeli forces, goes hand in hand with the dehumanization of these residents with the introduction of a number system, where every Palestinian resident was assigned a number that he or she is being referred to. When passing and being checked at one of the countless checkpoints whether a Palestinian resident is allowed to enter, soldiers check whether they are registered and numbered residents. At the same time, Israeli settlers from the illegal settlements are allowed to freely and without hassle, roam the streets, regardless of whether they actually are residents in this area.
The approval and support Elor Azraya has been receiving both from his comrades (that can be seen in the video with them not even flinching when he executes Abed al-Fattah) and settlers, mirrors the great support he enjoys from the majority of the Israeli population. Upon arriving home, Elor Azraya was received as a hero with a big celebration. The Israeli army clearly foster a culture where extrajudicial executions and an excessive use of force against Palestinians is considered ‘commendable’, ‘normal’ and even ‘heroism’; which is approved of not only by Israeli politics, but also society, and is thus becoming an integral part of Israeli society.
In various demonstrations in favour of this cold-blooded execution, Israeli demonstrators have been seen with placards asking to ‘kill them all’ – applauding not only the heinous execution of Abed al-Fattah, but calling on everyone to kill all the Palestinians – a clear call for the ethnic cleansing, and genocide, of Palestinians. These demonstrations have attracted hundreds of Israelis, and have not received any condemnation by the Israeli public or government.
Whereas Elor Azraya has been released until Sunday, the body of Abed al-Fattah is still being held by the Israeli government in a practice where the Israeli government holds hostage the bodies of Palestinians they accuse of attempting to harm Israeli forces or settlers. Like Abed al-Fattah al-Sharif, many more Palestinian families are thus denied the right to bury their loved ones and mourn their loss. Families of these Palestinians and their supporters have been protesting this inhumane tactic, demanding the release of the bodies.
In an environment that supports and commends the extrajudicial killing of a (Palestinian) human being lying incapacitated on the ground – clearly posing no threat to anyone – it does not come as a big surprise that Elor Azraya has been released ‘to celebrate Pessach with his family’. The charges for the heinous murder of Abed al-Fattah had already been reduced to ‘manslaughter’, despite the telling and obvious video footage. His release without any consequence for the execution of a Palestinian so clearly caught on camera is not just another sign of how cold-blooded, racist and inhumane the apartheid Israeli occupation of Palestine is; but also of how the ‘only democracy in the Middle East’ visibly has no regard or rather a total disregard for human rights, the rule of law or even of human life – as long as it is Palestinian life.
The Israeli authorities are furious after a UNESCO resolution stated that the Temple Mount and holy sites in Hebron and Bethlehem are an “integral part of Palestine.” The organization also criticized Israel, “the occupying power,” for planting fake graves in Muslim cemeteries.
Two tourist destinations, the Cave of the Patriarchs in the heart of the old city of Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem, are named in the paper as “Palestinian sites.” The draft decision by the UNESCO executive board on occupied Palestine was released April 11.
UNESCO “reaffirms that the two concerned sites located in… Hebron and in Bethlehem are an integral part of Palestine” and “disapproves the ongoing Israeli illegal excavations, works, construction of private roads for settlers and a separation wall inside the Old City of… Hebron, that harmfully affect the integrity of the site,” the statement says.
UNESCO slammed Israeli attacks on Muslims in the Temple Mount, which it only refers to by its Arabic name, Al-Haram Al-Sharif, and its holy site, Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The organization “strongly condemns the Israeli aggressions and illegal measures against the freedom of worship and Muslims’ access to their Holy Site Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al Sharif, and requests Israel, the Occupying Power, to respect the historic Status Quo and to immediately stop these measures,” the statement says.
Al-Aqsa Mosque became the flashpoint for bloodshed in 2015, amid mounting tensions over the holy site, sacred to both Muslims and Jews.
UNESCO called on Israel to stop “banning Muslims from burying their dead in some spaces and by planting Jewish fake graves in other spaces of the Muslim cemeteries.”
The group also criticized “the continuous Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip,” which causes an “intolerable number of casualties among Palestinian children,” as well as “the attacks on schools and other educational and cultural facilities and the denial of access to education.”
Israeli authorities have reacted with anger to the UNESCO document.
“This is yet another absurd UN decision,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, as cited by Israeli media.
“UNESCO ignores the unique historic connection of Judaism to the Temple Mount, where the two temples stood for a thousand years and to which every Jew in the world has prayed for thousands of years. The UN is rewriting a basic part of human history and has again proven that there is no low to which it will not stoop,” he added.
This is not the first UNESCO resolution that condemns Israel for aggression at holy sites in Jerusalem and the West Bank. In October 2015 the group issued a document which censured Israel for limiting Muslim access to Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and reaffirmed that the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem are Palestinian sites.
The document was passed by 26 votes to six – those against being the US, the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Estonia.
Tel Rumeida, al Khalil, occupied Palestine – On Saturday 3rd of April 2016 settlers entered land belonging to Muhammad Abu Haikal in the Tel Rumeida area of Hebron on the occupied West Bank in Palestine. The settler children built a tent and then brought other settlers who prayed and ate there. It took more than four hours from when the police arrived until the settlers actually left, still claiming that it was their land and running around so that the police would not be able to evict them.
The first young settler kids arrived at the land at around 9 o’clock in the morning and started building a tent out of wood and sheets that they had found and playing on the land. They were actually playing in Muhammad Abu Haikal’s garden, but the end of the garden has been declared a closed military area by the Israeli Occupation Forces, who have made a military outpost in the garden and cut off the end of it of with barbed wire. The settler children entered the garden using the staircase that has been built for the soldiers to reach the outpost: they stamped down the barbed wire and covered it with a piece of wood to prevent themselves from getting injured.
Later on, while the family was trying to pick almonds from trees in the part of the garden that is not a closed military Area, the settler children returned with a number of adult settlers and more children. Muhammed Abu Haikal and the internationals present asked the settlers to leave the land, but they refused. He then contacted the police.
After the police arrived, the settlers once again claimed to be the owners of the land, with the right to remain there. The Palestinian family was asked to step back and had to stop harvesting their garden. Not until after the settlers had prayed on the land multiple times, brought food and played ball there, did the police finally try to get them to leave. The police asked all Palestinians and internationals to leave as well, as they said, “it is impossible to make Israelis leave, if there are Palestinians on the land”. It then took the police over two hours to evict the settlers. They then removed the materials that the children had left on the part of the land that is not a closed military area, but refused to pull down the tent, because, they said, it was not allowed on Shabbat.
Finally the soldiers closed off the closed military area with more barbed wire and allowed the family back into their garden. If Palestinians had been trespassing on settlers land, which is illegally occupied, they would probably have been arrested immediately, but when it is the other way around, which it usually is, the police do not use any kind of force.
Israeli forces demolish the home of Ihab Maswada in Hebron on March 31, 2016. (Photo: Israeli army)
HEBRON – Israeli forces late Wednesday demolished part of the home belonging to the family of a Palestinian who was shot dead after stabbing an Israeli settler in December.
Locals said that Israeli forces closed all the entrances of the Jabal al-Sharif area in the southern occupied West Bank city of Hebron, and deployed heavily around the home of Ihab Fathi Maswada, as well as the house of Abd al-Rahman Yusri Maswada.
Ihab Maswada was killed on Dec. 7 after carrying out a stabbing attack against a settler near the Abu al-Rish checkpoint in southern Hebron. The Israeli settler succumbed to his wounds weeks later.
Maswada’s cousin, Abd al-Rahman, was killed on site on Dec. 9 after stabbing two Israelis on al-Shuhada Street.
Ihab Maswada’s brother said Israeli soldiers only gave the family ten minutes to evacuate the house, forcing them to go on the house’s second floor while they demolished the internal walls of the home.
Maswada’s mother said that Israeli soldiers then “fired a stun grenade inside the house and left the house laughing.”
Israeli authorities first issued a demolition order for Maswada’s home in early February, but had already threatened to destroy the house days after his death. His father said the demolition order was issued three days ago and that soldiers told them the demolition would be carried out in a week.
“We were surprised when they showed up after midnight,” he said.
Punitive home demolitions were expedited at the request of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in mid-October, and many have been carried out since.
The move came despite past recommendations by an Israeli military committee that the practice does not deter attacks.While families who receive demolition orders are given the opportunity to appeal the measures, Israel’s High Court of Justice typically rejects such appeals, according to Israeli watchdog Hamoked.
Israeli rights group B’Tselem condemned the practice in October as “court sanctioned revenge,” carried out on family members who have not committed crimes, amounting to collective punishment.
Israeli forces demolish the home of Ihab Maswada on March 31, 2016 in Hebron. (Photo: Israeli army)
Israeli forces demolish the home of Ihab Maswada on March 31, 2016 in Hebron. (Photo: Israeli army)
RAMALLAH – Four Palestinians arrested this week for Facebook posts have spoken of physical assault during their detention and interrogation, in the latest evidence to emerge of abuse that rights groups say is systemic in Israel’s jails.
The testimonies were collected by the Palestinian Committee for Prisoners’ Affairs and relate to four Palestinian youths, including at least two teenagers detained overnight Tuesday.
Hussein al-Sheikh, a lawyer with the committee, said 19-year-old Sameh Abu Sel was “seriously assaulted” when Israeli forces stormed his home in al-Arrub refugee camp north of Hebron on Tuesday.
The youth was tied up and left outdoors in cold weather for more than 10 hours, al-Sheikh said, noting that the mistreatment left him sick.
Meanwhile, al-Sheikh said that 18-year-old Ahmad Raed Jadallah, from Beit Ur at-Tahta in Ramallah district, was physically assaulted by Israeli forces during the four-hour drive to the Etzion detention center after he too was detained Tuesday.
The lawyer also cited two other recently detained Palestinians — Muhammad Mahmoud Othman and Muhammad Samer Othman — who also spoke of being physically assaulted in the Etzion detention center, although no further details were provided.
All four detainees were charged with “inciting violence” against Israel in posts made Facebook, al-Sheikh said.
In recent months, Israeli has detained scores of Palestinians for social media activity, 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.
Those detained for Facebook posts join an estimated 7,000 Palestinians currently inside Israeli prisons, where reports of mistreatment and torture is common.
Earlier this year, Israeli rights group B’Tselem released a report documenting “systemic” torture in Israel’s Shkima prison, which they said was taking place with total impunity.
HEBRON – Israeli settlers on Friday gathered outside the home of a human rights worker in Hebron to hurl abuse at him, a day after he captured on camera an Israeli soldier’s killing of a wounded Palestinian that has sparked international outcry. Imad Abu Shamsiya, a staff member with Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, told Ma’an after settlers threatened him: “I now fear for my life and the life of my family. I’m afraid they might attack my house and do me harm.”
He added that he fears the possibility of suffering the same fate as the Dawabsha family, who were killed in an arson attack committed by settlers last year in the village of Duma in the occupied West Bank.
Palestinian residents of Hebron Abed al-Fattah Yusri al-Sharif and Ramzi Aziz al-Qasrawi, both 21 years old, were shot down Thursday after allegedly stabbing and moderately wounding an Israeli soldier near a military checkpoint in Hebron’s Old City.
Shamsiya recorded rare video footage of an Israeli soldier shooting al-Sharif in the head at point-blank range in plain view of the medical team after he had already been shot at least once and left motionless on the ground.
The incident has brought a barrage of condemnations from the Israeli leadership and led Israel’s army to detain the soldier responsible and launch an investigation.
The release of the graphic video has called attention to what rights groups, international leaders, and Palestinian officials call a policy of “extrajudicial executions” by Israel against Palestinians, since a wave of unrest swept the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel last October.
UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov said Friday he strongly condemned the apparent “extrajudicial execution” of al-Sharif.
“This was a gruesome, immoral, and unjust act that can only fuel more violence and escalate an already volatile situation,” Mladenov said.
Tel Rumeida — where Shamsiya’s house is located and the site of the Thursday’s incident — has been a flashpoint for tensions between Palestinians and Israeli settlers and military, and is near the illegal settlement of Beit Yishai.
Mistreatment of Palestinians in the Hebron area has been common since the city was divided in the 1990s after a US-born settler, Baruch Goldstein, massacred 29 Palestinians inside the Ibrahimi Mosque.
The majority of the city was placed under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority, while the Old City and surrounding areas were placed under Israeli military control in a sector known as H2.
The area is home to 30,000 Palestinians and around 800 Israeli settlers who live under the protection of Israeli forces. Hebron residents frequently report attacks and harassment by the settlers carried out in the presence of the forces.
Hebron, Occupied West Bank – On the 24th March, Israeli settlers from the illegal settlements in occupied al-Khalil (Hebron) celebrated the holiday of ‘Purim’. The settlers marched through the Old City of al-Khalil, starting off from the spot where just a few hours before, Israeli forces gunned down two Palestinian youth and then executed one of them in cold blood.
In the morning, Israeli forces shot and severely injured two Palestinian youth in the Tel Rumeida neighbourhood and then left them lying on the ground seriously injured while Israeli medics were attending to a slightly injured Israeli soldier. Palestinian ambulances, that are not allowed to drive on this road that is only for settlers use, were prevented by Israeli forces from reaching the injured Palestinian youth. In a video published by B’Tselem, a soldier can clearly be seen shooting one of the youth in the head at point-blank range even though he is lying on the ground and is not posing a threat to anyone.
Only a few hours after this extrajudical execution, settlers started their joyous march, dressed up in costumes, with music blasting from a bus, dancing in the same spot where the two Palestinians were murdered in cold blood.
Illegal settlers celebrating in the exact spot where two Palestinians were murdered in cold-blood
Photo credit: Youth Against Settlements
The procession of settlers then proceeded down Shuhada Street, where the main illegal Israeli settlements in the heart of the city are located, before turning towards the Ibrahimi mosque. Shuhada Street, except for a tiny strip, has been completely closed for Palestinians, who are not allowed to even walk there – unlike the illegal settlers who can walk and drive. When the march reached the vicinity of Ibrahimi mosque, Israeli forces started closing off the area to all Palestinians, physically pushing back children behind barriers and preventing Palestinians from accessing the area, even if they were residents, in order to create a space free of Palestinians for the celebrations of the settlers to take place.
Settler children. One drinking wine, one holstering a machine gun and another aiming a pistol at onlookers
Israeli settlers celebrating while Palestinians are denied walking down the street
Palestinians and Internationals are not allowed to pass
One of the settlers, of which many were dressed up in costumes, was seen in a shirt flashing a raised fist on a yellow background, which is the symbol of the ‘Kach’, a party of extremist Israeli fundamentalist settlers, deemed a terrorist group even by the Israeli government. The party was founded by Meir Kahane, who publicly called for the expulsion of Palestinians and to end culture relations between Jewish and Palestinian students. On Tuesday, two days before, during celebrations for the same holiday, the loudspeakers of the Ibrahimi mosque were mis-used to broadcast hate-speech calling for the expulsion of Palestinians from al-Khalil.
Israeli settlers with a Kahane-shirt (settler in the middle)
One of the settler children dancing on top of a bus was playing with a pistol. Even though the police realized this, they merely took the weapon from him – but then gave it back shortly adfter. If a Palestinian of any age had been seen with anything resembling a weapon, the person would likely be shot immediately.
The settlers’ celebrations kept going uninterrupted with Israeli forces ensuring that Palestinians would not cross the way of the settlers, forcing them to stay back, and even closing Ibrahimi mosque checkpoint to ensure no one would even come close.
Palestinian civilians stopped by Israeli forces after they opened the street for Palestinians again while settlers freely pass the checkpoint
Israeli forces also used the roof of a Palestinian family home in the vicinity of the mosque as a look-out point. This is just another small example of the impunity and supremacy settlers enjoy with the active support of the Israeli forces, while Palestinians are systematically humiliated, oppressed and killed in cold blood under the Israeli military occupation.
Hebron, occupied Palestine – Since the 1994 Ibrahimi Mosque Massacre, the majority of Shuhada Street – once the thriving Palestinian market and main thoroughfare connecting north and south al-Khalil (Hebron) – has been closed to Palestinians. They are completely barred from accessing it, except for a small stretch in the Tel Rumeida neighbourhood.
This tiny strip that is legally still accessible for Palestinians is restricted by the recently ‘renovated’ Shuhada checkpoint at the beginning of the street and ends where the street begins to border the illegal settlement of Beit Hadassah, beyond which Israeli forces assure that no Palestinians exist. Further down Shuhada street, clearly marked with yet another military post barring anyone who might attempt to enter the street, are even more Israeli settlements – all illegal under international law – located directly in the city center of al-Khalil.
The settlements on Shuhada Street are connected via a settler-only road to the much larger settlement of Kiryat Arba on the outskirts of al-Khalil; settlers can also reach the illegal Tel Rumeida settlement easily by traversing the tiny stretch of Shuhada Street still open to some Palestinians and the road leading up into Tel Rumeida from Shuhada checkpoint, now encompassed within the closed military zone. While Palestinians are allowed to walk on this part of Shuhada Street, Palestinian vehicles, including ambulances, are forbidden from driving there. Since Israeli authorities declared the area part of a closed military zone on 1st November 2015, the already barely existent access has been further restricted – Isreali forces only allow entry to Palestinians registered with them residents, while any Israeli settler, regardless of whether they are residents or not, can pass freely and without ever being harassed, stopped, detained, arrested, or threatened by the ever-present military forces.
At the line demarcated by Daboya checkpoint (Checkpoint 55), where the illegal settlements on the street begin and Palestinians are no longer allowed, a steep flight of stairs leads up to Qurtuba school and into the Tel Rumeida neighbourhood. These stairs, the only way for Palestinians to continue traveling in the same direction above the street as they are not allowed to continue down Shuhada Street itself, have been closed by the Israeli forces with a metal gate since November 2015.
Even though this gate is currently not locked, Israeli forces deny any Palestinian, except for the students and teachers of Qurtuba school during school-time, to use these stairs. As a result Palestinian residents of this neighbourhood, once they have passed Shuhada checkpoint – an ordeal that can take several hours – have been denied to reach their homes by walking down Shuhada Street and the stairs leading up to Qurtuba school, forcing them instead to take a much longer detour around. With yet another way denied for Palestinans, navigating the maze of Israeli military-enforced checkpoints, complete bans on travel, roads where Palestinians cannot drive, settler-only roads, closed military zones and new arbitrary closures has become even more arduous.
Israeli forces are thereby also clearly working to minimise the number of Palestinians who will actually use this last portion of Shuhada Street – now a complete dead-end – as they bar Palestinians not only from going farther down the closed street but also declare the stairs, formerly an alternate route, yet another closed zone. This illustrates the Israeli attempts to rid Shuhada Street entirely of Palestinians. Ethnic cleansing in al-Khalil, and all across Israeli-occupied Palestinian lands is not a sudden, headline-grabbing event; it progresses gradually as Palestinians are restricted in certain areas, barred from driving there, prohibited from even being there, forced out to facilitate the expansion of the illegal settlements. Ethnic cleansing happens slowly, by erecting new and ‘fortifying’ existing checkpoints, advancing one more closure at a time.