Home / Reports / Who’s Afraid of Human Rights Observers?

Who’s Afraid of Human Rights Observers?

1. Human Rights Observer to be Deported from Palestine by Israel.
2. Settler Mobs Attack Palestinians and Besiege Internationals In Hebron
3. Aboud Holds Second Demonstration Against the Wall
4. Army taught a lesson in Bil’in
5. Israeli Use of Daewoo Tracked Excavators in Palestinian House Destruction

From the Israeli press:
6. Ynet News: “Olive trees uprooted in Palestinian village”
7. Ha’aretz: The Killing of Mohammed Abu Salha


1. Human Rights Observer to be Deported from Palestine by Israel

November 24th, 2005


A Human Rights Observer (HRO) from the UK was arrested in Tel Rumeida, Hebron earlier today. He had just finished escorting Palestinian children to school and was walking home on Shuhaddah street when he was stopped by an armed Border Police unit in a targeted arrest.

He was informed that his visa had expired but explained that he had been given an appointment with the Ministy of the Interior (MoI) for renewal. He had applied for this renewal before his visa had expired and was given an appointment in three weeks time, as is the usual practice of the MoI. He produced documents to prove this appointment. These documents were refused and he alone was put into a Border Police van and taken to Abrahim Avinu police station.

He has had an immediate hearing tonight with the MoI, not attended by any lawyer or independent witnesses. The MoI. decided on his deportation without hearing any representation from him or his lawyer. He now waits in the Ramleh Deportation Centre near Tel Aviv to be sent home.

This HRO has been working in Tel Rumeida for a number of months. His primary role has been in escorting Palestinian children to and from Qurtuba Primary School as they are subjected to stoning and physical assault by settlers from the Tel Rumeida and Beit Haddassa settlements on a daily basis. This area of Hebron has seen some of the worst settler violence against local Palestinians. The police have been at best apathetic toward this violence and at worst, have accommodated it. He and other HROs are regularly harassed and threatened with arrest by police.

Only last week, this HRO met with members of the Israeli Knesset to discuss the security situation with settlers and the difficulties with the Civil and Border Police in Tel Rumeida. HROs have been stoned, spat at and had their life threatened on numerous occasions by settlers communities for the work they do. The absence of HRO’s would give settlers carte blanche to do as they wish to Palestinians and their land without any international witnesses.


2. Settler Mobs Attack Palestinians and Besiege Internationals In Hebron

November 26th, 2005


Between 2pm and 5pm today, a hostile mob of between 100 and 150 Israeli settlers visiting from outside Hebron besieged five Human Rights Observers (HROs) and one photo-journalist inside the HROs’ apartment in Tel Rumeida, Hebron. Palestinian families, who were the main target of the settler’s hate, were also besieged in their homes. Other settlers attacked Palestinians throughout the city on a day that was advertised as a “mass prayer” for Jews only in the Ibrahimi Mosque. ISM and Tel Rumeida project volunteers alone recorded six assaults on Palestinians and twelve assaults and five stonings on HROs. The police were called on eight separate occasions and the army/DCO 4 times, but most of the time they did not arrive.

In one such incident on Tel Rumeida street, two HROs were present when settlers threw stones at Palestinians on the roofs of their houses, as well as at the HROs. Local Palestinian Basem Rajeb Abu-Aisha’s solar panels were broken by the stone throwers. In another incident, an HRO was violently pushed by one of a group of three settler girls who were trying to attack a Palestinian school girl the HRO was accompanying.

The HROs spent the morning spread along Tel Rumeida street and Shuhaddah street ready to observe the situation in anticipation of settler violence. Many were doing their usual accompaniment of Palestinian children returning home from school. Palestinian children in Hebron are regularly attacked by settlers with stones and other forms of violence.

They heard of a disturbance near to their apartment which is about 100m from Tel Rumeida settlement. They arrived to find a mob of about 150 settlers nearby throwing stones at a small group of Palestinian youth on the street. Israeli soldiers prevented the settlers from following the Palestinians. Police and soldiers picked one settler out of crowd to arrest him. He was detained for about five minutes before he escaped into the crowd of settlers. The soldiers ran after him but the crowd surrounded them and scuffles broke out between the settlers and soldiers. One of the HROs tried to take pictures of this confrontation but was met with hostility from the settlers and soldiers. The HROs were still trying to accompany Palestinians despite the hostile mob. One settler with an M16 automatic rifle threateningly followed one of the HROs, so he decided to come inside. Others from the small group of HROs also sought refuge in their apartment, fearing for their safety if they were to leave. At first they retreated to the roof where they could continue their observations, but were soon driven down when the settlers began throwing stones up at them. The settlers stayed outside singing in Hebrew and chanting slogans like “No Arabs” in English.

Other quotes from settlers throughout the day: “death to the Arabs”, “we hate all the Arabs”, “Palestinians are animals who should be in cages”, “they shouldn’t be caged just in Hebron but everywhere”, “I hope that God burns all the Arabs in hell… they are not men but dogs”.

According to Israeli Police and military, around 3000 Israeli settlers from around the West Bank and Israel have come to the Palestinian city of Hebron today to show “solidarity with the pioneers of Hebron” as they stated in their advertising for the day.


3. Aboud Holds Second Demonstration Against the Wall

by ISM activists

On Friday the 25th of November the village of Aboud held it’s second demonstration in two weeks against the construction of the wall there. Joined by Israeli and international supporters, the village came out in force to show opposition to the construction of the wall on their agricultural land and the destruction and theft that will result from it. Over 5330 dunams of their land, as well as the whole of the water sources of the village will be confiscated by the Israeli apartheid barrier.

Around 300 protesters marched towards the site where construction will soon begin. The IOF had learned from last week and were far more organised and aggressive. They had organized regular tactical positions which they could fall back to. The jeeps were kept in the back, rather than falling back every time. It was possibly a different company of soldiers from last week as we did not recognise any of them. They had several soldiers with cameras – both video and still. They constantly gathered information, recording the faces of many of those present, often against their explicitly expressed will. In the distance, Israeli snipers could be clearly observed on the tops of the hills on both sides of the demonstration.

When the demonstration reached the first earth mound blocking the road, a few soldiers showed a map declaring the area a “closed military zone” – the usual IOF tactic to prevent non-violent demonstrations. They were largely ignored by the demonstrators who continued along the path towards the building site. At a tactically superior site in the road, a large number of IOF soldiers blocked the road, using razor wire and their own physical presence. Almost immediately, they attempted to disperse the protesters using sound grenades and tear gas. This assault on an unarmed crowd, consisting largely of young men, continued at regular intervals throughout the demonstration, often when there were attempts to move forward past the soldiers, though sometimes for no apparent reason. The soldiers also beat, punched and kicked people in the crowd.

Three Palestinians and one Israeli were arrested, including one Salaiman Khouri (33) who was trying to act as a de-escalating presence, negotiating with the soldiers in Hebrew. For his efforts he received a bloody wound to his arm from the soldier’s beatings. The four were held for over an hour, and were eventually released after negotiations, on condition that the demonstration end and disperse. One of the arrestees, Abdullah Bhargouti (24) was badly injured after being beaten with the soldiers rifle butts, and struck in the head and chest with their batons. His brother Abdullah Raheem Bhargouti was also arrested and held. For an hour they kept him captive using extremely tight handcuffs, which left marks on his arms.

After release, he was admitted to hospital for 24 hours, to allow neurological checks to be performed.

Despite the violence of the Israeli Occupation Forces, the demonstration was a success, pushing far into the land of the village. This acted as strong statement against the wall.

For picture from the demonstration:


4. Army taught a lesson in Bil’in

by ISM activist Sarah

At 12:00 the weekly Bil’in protest against the Apartheid Fence got underway. The group consisted of about 100 people, mostly local Palestinian men supplemented by about 40 Israeli and international supporters.

The group marched out of town lead by a banner illustrating the land of Palestine pre-1948 partition, then another map of 1967, then a map of 2002-2005 showing just Gaza and a small enclave of the West Bank as Palestinian territory, and then a question mark for the future. By the fence, there were about 15 soldiers waiting, but the group did not continue on this route, instead deviating through the olive groves to the construction quarry, where about 15 more soldiers were waiting.

Protestors walked past the guards without impediment and several members were able to scale the mountain of stone in the quarry. They held the hill for 20 minutes or so until the number of soldiers swelled to around 40 in number – they then pulled people off the precarious rocks, with both soldiers and protesters sliding and stumbling. There were no serious injuries reported.

Earth moving work continued through-out. When the trucks drove around to the occupied side of the hill, protestors sat in the road, halting movement for more than half an hour, much to the anger of the drivers. The rocks and earth are used as foundations for the Fence

During this sit-in, the banner depicting the land of Palestine was held aloft, while a line of soldiers blocked the path between the protestors and the machinery. One of the Israeli protestors took the opportunity to give the assembled soldiers a history lesson for 15 minutes: he pointed to the map, highlighted the land grabs, talked about Prime Minister Sharon’s plans and invited participation from the soldiers.

None of the army group took the chance to make comment or ask questions. They were not very good students, despite looking attentive.

Meanwhile a few of the internationals were singing verses of “Where have all the flowers gone” changed to “Where have all the olive trees gone? Uprooted everyone… when will they ever learn? ” and “Where have all the soldiers gone? Occupying Palestine everyone… when will they ever learn?”.

Eventually as the group dispersed the army fired tear gas toward the youth with rocks who had moved back to the olive trees. About 25 canisters were fired.

For picture from the day:


5. Israeli Use of Daewoo Tracked Excavators in Palestinian House Destruction

Early morning on the 21st of November, several Israeli owned Daewoo tracked excavators accompanied by a large body of Border Police demolished seven occupied Palestinian homes in the Anata, Beit Hanina and Silwan areas of the West Bank. These houses fall within that area of the Jerusalem Municipality which has expanded into the West Bank. Reports say that the Jerusalem Municipality has a million and a half unused shekels ($300,000) for use in its annual budget. The money is lost if not used in demolitions. Since such an amount pays for about 70 demolitions, the Municipality is under pressure to demolish as many homes as possible in the next month and a half. That these homes are situated too close to the route of the Wall was given as a reason for demolishing the homes in Anata – even though the Wall has not yet been built. Seven homes were destroyed on this day alone. After having grabbed what few possessions they could as soon as they heard the bulldozers, these families were put out into the rain, homeless.

November 21st , 6:30 AM the municipality of Jerusalem demolished the house of Hamdan’s family in Anata

Gush Shalom has called for activists to send letters to their local Daewoo-Chevrolet and General Motors dealers, Dawoo recently having been taken over by Chevrolet, a company owned by General Motors. ISM would very much support this call and encourage its activists to do likewise.

The use of Daewoo equipment to destroy civilian homes by a military occupying force violates international and human rights law. For Daewoo to profit by selling vehicle for such uses is morally reprehensible and similar to the Caterpillar corporation ties to military industrial complex.

See www.catdestroyshomes.org and the campaign against Caterpillar.

Images and some information courtesy of The Israeli Committee against House Demolitions, whose activists witnessed these events. www.icahd.org

Daewoo Chevrolet Europe

Daewoo US

General Motors


6. Ynet News: “Olive trees uprooted in Palestinian village”


Ali Waked

Private contractor uproots dozens of Palestinian village’s olive trees before eyes of soldiers near security fence. ‘If this is a security fence, how can IDF justify uprooting?’ villager asks

The residents of the West Bank village of Bil’in were amazed to discover several weeks ago that dozens of olive trees had been uprooted from the village’s orchards, tearing down the livelihood of dozens of families.

The village of Bil’in has become a symbol of the struggle against the construction of the security fence. Local residents and Israeli and international peace activists rally near the village on a weekly basis against the erection of the fence.

Many acres have already been appropriated from the village in favor of the construction project, and now its residents lost their olive orchards for a project to develop infrastructure for the new neighbourhoods of the nearby Israeli town of Modi’in.

“At the beginning of the month, while we were busy with preparations for the id al Fitr holiday, we discovered that 190 of our finest olive trees were loaded on trucks and disappeared,” Muhammad Abu Rahma, one of the land owners hurt by the uprooting, told Ynet.

“It is true that the lands are on the other side of the fence, but according to an agreement between us and the army, we are allowed to cultivate them. Although the army puts a lot of difficulties in our way, it does not deny the fact that the land is ours,” he said.

‘Police are doing nothing about it’

According to Abu Rahma, the residents of the village spotted employees of one of the contractors in the new neighborhood under construction across the fence uprooting the trees.

He claimed that when the villagers approached the IDF on the matter, they were told that it was not army business, and that they should turn to the police.

“The claim that the army is not involved in the issue is infuriating, because the whole uprooting operation took place before the soldiers’ eyes,” he said.

Abu Rahma claimed that although he filed a complaint with the police, nothing has been done so far.

“I told the people in the army that even if we can accept their claim that the fence is built for security purposes, how can they justify the uprooting of trees? Meanwhile the army keeps telling us it’s none of its business, and the police do nothing about it,” he said.

The Defense Ministry told Ynet that “the incident in question was not related to the construction of the security fence, but was the work of a private contractor who was operating in the area. Once his activity was reported, the police intervened to stop it.”

Police sources said in response that an investigation into the incident has been launched.


7. Ha’aretz: The Killing of Mohammed Abu Salha


“Death in French Park”

By Gideon Levy

It was afternoon, and the four boys, all of them high school students, set out on a hike on the heights of Mt. Ebal overlooking Nablus. They climbed on the rocks in the direction of the “French Park,” a small forest planted near the top of the mountain, the only green area of Nablus, which serves as the city’s picnic site. No one can explain why the place is called the French Park. Just as it is not exactly clear what the boys were doing there. Perhaps it was a peaceful afternoon hike, as the boys claim, or perhaps it was a terror activity, as the Israel Defense Forces claim.

The boys say that they were armed with a family-sized bottle of water, their only baggage. The IDF claims the four boys were a terrorist band that was about to plant a roadside bomb. Shortly before they got to French Park, fire was opened on the boys: Mohammed Abu Salha, 15, was shot in the head and apparently died on the spot; Ala Shishtri, 15, was shot in the stomach and is lying injured at home; Ramzi Saka, 17, was shot in the leg; and Ahmed al-Fahuri, 17, emerged unhurt, after managing to flee.

The chronological report in the newspapers the next day was typical, routine, almost boring: “A group of soldiers from the Haruv infantry battalion, waiting in ambush, noticed a band of young men trying to plant a bomb on the road that is used for military vehicles. The soldiers opened fire and identified a hit to three Palestinians. One of them was evacuated in a Palestinian ambulance and died of his injuries, the others fled.”

We can assume that not many readers of this laconic news item, as it was published in Haaretz based on military sources, spent much time reading it. The same item also noted that a few hours earlier, a company commander in the Paratroops was slightly injured during an arrest operation in the nearby Balata refugee camp – a fact that may not be connected to the shooting. But in long-suffering, embattled Nablus, they do see the context: There they are saying that there was no terrorist band and no bomb, only the soldiers’ quick and angry trigger fingers – perhaps as revenge for the bomb that had slightly injured the company commander that morning, perhaps as a cautionary measure on the part of the soldiers. The IDF has a different version.

Were the high school students Mohammed, Ala, Ramzi and Ahmed members of a dangerous terrorist band, or an innocent group of hikers? Did Mohammed deserve to die? And if they really were about to plant a roadside bomb, as the IDF claims, how is it that none of the survivors were arrested? After all, they have been at home since the incident, and we had no problems meeting them this week. Ala lay injured and bleeding on the slopes of the mountain when the soldiers approached him after shooting at him, and they didn’t evacuate him to a hospital or arrest him, either.

On the foot of Mt. Ebal some disturbing questions arise. Why was Mohammed killed, and why was Ala injured, and why was Ahmed released, and why was his uncle Amjad arrested last Friday? What really happened?

Even on a cloudy day, Nablus can be seen from the heights of Mt. Ebal. Breathing heavily, we climbed on foot this week to the top of the mountain, to the place where piles of rocks block the road, on orders of the IDF, to the place where the young people of the city, the most imprisoned city in the territories, go to breathe some mountain air. The dozens of empty beer bottles piled up by the side of the road testify to the nighttime activity here. The bloodstains that have not yet been completely washed away tell of happened here on Tuesday, November 8.

At 4 P.M., a rumor spread in the city that soldiers had fired at a group of boys who were roaming around. Mohammed Ayash, who serves as a coordinator for the handful of international volunteers who are living in the city, immediately set out with his “internationals,” about a dozen young people from all over the world, to comb the area. A native of Balata, he is a handsome and energetic young man who speaks fluent English, and is very experienced in rescue activities in his battered city. On Zablah Street, the last street on the mountainside, he heard that there was a missing person, Mohammed Abu Salah, a 15-year-old boy, whose father had sent him to take his place as a security guard in a building being constructed on the mountainside. Three other boys managed to flee from the shooting, he heard, two of them were wounded. One did not return.

Night began to fall, daylight was replaced by twilight, and Ayash and his colleagues on the rescue team searched for the missing boy, lighting the way with their cellular phones. After about 40 minutes, they found Abu Salah lying on a rock, his head pitched forward in the direction of the steep slope, with blood on his face and his chest. The boy was apparently dead when they reached him; his body was cold. On both sides of his head, there were bullet wounds. Ayash carried the boy’s body down the slope, shouting for help. With him was the boy’s uncle, Amjad Abu Salha, who had joined the search. The desperate parents were waiting near their home, also on the mountainside.

At first the uncle carried his nephew’s body, but he tripped, and Ayash was the one who finally brought the body to the Palestinian ambulance waiting below, in front of the horrified parents. Dr. Samir Abu Zarur of Rafidia Hospital in the city pronounced the death: “A boy in a white T-shirt and blue jeans, with a digital watch on his wrist, and white socks,” wrote the doctor. “We found blood on the head and the face, remnants of vomit in the mouth, the entry wound on the right side of the head, half a centimeter in diameter, and an exit wound of three centimeters, at a depth of eight centimeters, on his left side. The X-ray showed crushed bones and bleeding in the skull.” Dr. Abu Zarur told Ayash and his friends that in light of the tiny entry wound and the relatively large exit wound, it looked to him as though the boy was shot at short range. He didn’t write that in his report of the death.

There is a rockslide at the place where the boy’s body was found. On the rock where he lay, an arrow and markings in Hebrew letters were painted in red long ago. From above, the ruins of an ancient mosque, the Imad al-Din mosque, overlook the place where the body was found. On the top of the bald mountain there is a forest in which the soldiers of the Duvdevan anti-guerrilla unit and the other IDF special units hide when they want to command a view of the city. Sometimes it is very dangerous to walk there. A few moments’ walk away, down on the mountainside, is the home of the Abu Salha family.

A tiny house, with two small rooms. The sofa in the narrow hallway served as Mohammed’s childhood room, a pathetic flowerpot on the windowsill for decoration. The father, Hamdi, and the mother, Rana, are very restrained for parents who lost their eldest son only a few days ago. They welcome us with a friendly smile, impossible to understand. Only the cuckoo clock emits a strange sound, like weeping, on the hour. There were six well-groomed children until a few days ago; now five remain. The grandmother, Jihad, also proud and restrained, and the little brother, Mahmoud, join the conversation of the bereaved.

Mohammed was in 10th grade, and dreamed of becoming a doctor. They say that he wanted to make his father happy. His father has worked all his life as an ordinary laborer and as a night watchman. In the meantime, Mohammed saved his pocket money for a cellular phone with a camera, G2 or G3. The father got work at the building site a few months ago: He used to spend his nights there. This week Hamdi resigned from the job; he couldn’t sit there anymore, in the place near where his son met his death.

From time to time, Hamdi used to call his son Mohammed at home, and ask him to replace him at the construction site until nightfall. That’s what happened on the last day of Mohammed’s life. Mohammed returned home from school at 1 P.M. that day.

“What did you cook? I’m hungry,” he asked his mother, who apologized that she hadn’t had time to make lunch yet, because she was at the doctor with his sister. He went to do his homework, recalls his mother, a very attractive woman wearing a headscarf, until she finished preparing the mujadra, a dish of lentils and rice, for him.

At about 3 P.M., his father called from the city and asked his son to go out to the construction site until he came to replace him. In contrast to his usual behavior, Mohammed left the house without asking permission from his mother, who was busy with the laundry. He only asked his brother to tell her he had left. A short time later, when Rana sent her young son to the construction site to tell Mohammed not to come home late, Mohammed asked to apologize to his mother for his hasty departure. Thus, in detail, without tears, the mother recalls her son’s last hours. “He took a bottle of water with him,” adds his grandmother, Jihad.

At about 4 P.M., someone called the house and said that there was shooting from above, and that Mohammed was in danger: Maybe he was arrested, maybe he was wounded, maybe he was killed.

Three boys set out. Ahmed al-Fahuri, a 17-year-old boy who is big for his age, now says that he set out with his two friends, Ala Shishtri and Ramzi Saka, in the direction of French Park. On the way they met Mohammed, sitting at the entrance to the construction site, and they suggested that he join them. Mohammed brought a bottle of water with him. When they approached French Park, they were suddenly fired on, as Fahuri recalls. Fahuri lives near the Abu Salha family; the other two boys were his friends. The four scattered in panic in all directions when they heard the shooting. Two of them, Ramzi and Ahmed, ran down the slope in the direction of the first row of houses, and found a hiding place among the rocks; Ala and Mohammed fled eastward, in the direction of the Imad al-Din mosque. Fahuri says the soldiers fired and threw grenades at them.

In his home in the city, the injured Ala Shishtri lies convalescing from his injury. Smiling, with a long scar along the length of his stomach, a red kaffiyeh covering the wound. He also says that they were fired on suddenly, when they approached French Park. He and Mohammed fled eastward, and he heard the soldiers calling to them on the megaphone in Hebrew, which he doesn’t understand. The soldiers who hit him and Mohammed shot at them, he says, from a distance of about 20 meters. Ala says that he fell from the bullet that hit his stomach, and then he noticed the soldier who approached him, checked whether he was carrying a weapon, and left without a word. Afterward, Ala managed to get up and run wounded to the first house. Mohammed remained behind, bleeding.

The IDF spokesperson said this week: “On Tuesday, November 8, an IDF lookout spotted four Palestinians apparently engaged in placing a bomb on the road going up the mountain, in order to harm the military vehicles on it. Relying on intelligence information, and since the four had been engaged in a similar activity the day before, the force opened the `suspect detention procedure’ in order to detain them. In the course of events fire was opened toward the lower part of the body and a hit on three of them was observed. The four, among them the Palestinian who was apparently not hurt, were seen fleeing in the direction of the city of Nablus. Therefore, the possibility of detaining them or giving them medical care was denied.”

Last Friday night, at about 2 A.M., soldiers knocked on the door of the bereaved family. The father, Hamdi, sounded more upset when he recalls the events of that night, than when he recalls the events of the day his son was killed. The soldiers knocked on the door, threatened with weapons, searched the house before the frightened eyes of the children, and didn’t bother to explain why they had come. They only asked, “Is that your son?” when they saw the memorial poster for Mohammed, issued by Hamas, who adopted Mohammed after his death.

Every casualty has an adoptive organization, but Hamdi says his son had no connection with Hamas. But the green flags of the organization are now fluttering in the wind above the home of the Abu Salha family. Afterward, the soldiers went to the apartment on the ground floor of the house, where Hamdi’s brother Amjad, a 32-year-old bachelor, lives. This is the uncle who found Mohammed’s body, together with the foreign volunteers. At the conclusion of the search, which apparently didn’t turn up anything, the soldiers arrested Amjad. At home, they haven’t heard from him since.

Why was Amjad arrested?

The IDF Spokesperson’s Office did not answer the question.

From his sickbed, Ala Shishtri swore that he will never, never again climb the accursed mountain, Mt. Ebal, to visit French Park at the summit.