by Nils and Lo
HEBRON — Since the Oslo agreement, the city of Hebron has been divided into areas ruled by the Palestinian Authority and areas ruled by Israel. Today, there are about 500 Israeli Jews living inside Hebron, with a Palestinian population of close to 200,000. Two to three thousand Israeli soldiers serve as ‘protection’ for these illegal Israeli settlements. This ‘protection’ is, in fact, a system of oppression of the Palestinians, imposing major difficulties on their daily lives.
The old town of Hebron, for example, is home to just a few settler families and is therefore surrounded by checkpoints. Many Palestinian shops are closed, and there are nets hanging over their streets, because of all the garbage, bottles and rocks that the settlers on the rooftops keep throwing at the Palestinians below.
Lots of streets and entire neighborhoods are closed off with iron gates put up by the military. Most Palestinians were forced to move out of the old town during the long and systematic curfews following the outbreak of the second Intifada.
Abrahams’ mosque has been divided into a Jewish and Palestinian part since Baruch Goldstein massacred 29 Palestinian worshipers in the mosque in 1994.
ISM has now set up a presence in the Tal Ramada district. Between 30 and 50 settlers live in this area, along with many hundreds of Palestinians, surrounded by roadblocks and checkpoints, which has forced almost all Palestinian shops and stores to close. The Palestinians in Tal Ramada face daily harassment from both the settlers and some of the soldiers.
Palestinian children are afraid to go out in the streets to play. It is not unusual to see the settlers, even kids, attack them, and the soldiers will do nothing to protect them. The police, who claim to
serve as protection for the Palestinians, are always very delayed and are perceived by most as useless protection.
Many Palestinians now fear that more settlers and soldiers will come as a result of the disengagement in Gaza. Already, two families from Gaza have moved in. There is also a fear that an even more aggressive Zionism will emerge among both settlers and soldiers after the disengagement.
International presence in Hebron might help to de-escalate the situation and is already needed in order for many Palestinian children to be able to go to their school and to play in the streets.