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Sabbath Riot by Settlers in Hebron

by ISM activists in Hebron

On the 26th of November in the West Bank, a large number of armed Israeli Settlers visiting Hebron for the commemoration of the Biblical character Abraham’s burial of Sarah broke Palestinian property and assaulted Palestinians. The rioting Settlers, numbering some one hundred and sixty people rioted in the ‘H2’ area of Hebron, so designated after the Oslo Two Peace Accord and the Hebron Protocol. ‘H2’ is that area of Hebron under Israeli civil control as opposed to the larger more populated ‘H1’ area which is under Palestinian Authority civil control. A large number of Palestinian families still remain in this Israeli controlled (and Settler occupied) ‘H2’ area and are subject to daily intimidation by local Settlers and Israeli military restrictions. International Human Rights Observers (HROs) remain in Tel Rumeida (H2) and daily escort Palestinian children to school and accompany the adults about daily errands.

Large numbers of Settlers began roaming the streets of H2 around midday. The majority were teenage youths. Initially, they shouted obscenities and spat at passing Palestinians. Around two thirty in the afternoon, a large fight broke out between the mob gathered at the top of Tel Rumeida street and the sons of several Palestinian families who were standing outside their house. One son received a fractured collarbone and another was badly beaten. The Israeli military had quickly arrived to keep Settlers away from the Palestinians, however they were greatly outnumbered by Settlers and were unable to break up the mob or prevent much of the stoning. After the Palestinians fled into their homes, attention then turned on the nearby home of the Human Rights Observers and for over two hours, five of them, with a German photojournalist remained locked indoors while their apartment was stoned and obscenities and death threats yelled at them. Another three HROs unaware that their nearby home was under siege tried to escort a single Palestinian student through this crowd and were beaten until the Israeli soldiers pulled them out.

Large numbers of the Settlers carried automatic weapons. Members of the Settler Militia were particularly aggressive toward the Western HRO’s throughout the day often shouldering and tripping them in an effort to provoke them. The HROs reported twelve separate incidents of physical assault including grabbing, pushing, shouldering, tripping and knocking one person to the ground. The mob toward evening moved along Tel Rumeida street entering Palestinian property, preventing returning Palestinians from entering their houses, breaking windows and beating on doors. The Israeli military closed a checkpoint which allows Palestinians from H2 to access H1 for over two hours while the mob paraded and Palestinians were also prevented from accessing their homes in H2 from the south. It was observed that television journalists were prevented by an Israeli soldier from entering the H2 area to film the riot and the Settlers that surrounded the soldier. Settlers remained on the street until sunset when the Sabbath fast ended.

Although the Israeli Police were called on over eight separate occasions during the day, their presence on the street was minimal and was of short duration when they did arrive. Only one Settler was seen to be detained. It was left to a small number of Israeli soldiers to hold back the Settlers. Nevertheless, many windows, doors and rooftop water heaters were smashed and Palestinians stoned, beaten and intimidated by Settlers. Despite repeated pleas, Police and army numbers remained minimal thus giving these armed Settlers free reign to roam the streets of ‘H2’ and continue the process of intimidation toward its Palestinian residents, a process which has the ultimate goal of evicting them from their homes. On Shuhaddah street adjacent to Tel Rumeida alone only eleven out of the fifty two families remain. One more family is currently trying to leave. Despite the recent high publicity Gaza pullouts, the remainder of the Settler community continues to use violence and intimidation to expand and consolidate unabated.