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Human Rights Workers’ Press Conference: Escalating Settler Violence in Hebron

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Jerusalem: A broad coalition of activists and advocacy groups held a press conference today to call on the Israeli authorities to uphold the law and arrest settlers perpetrating violence against Palestinians and international volunteers that attempt to protect them before one of them is seriously injured or killed. Recent attacks against Palestinian residents in Tel Rumeida have increased in both degree and frequency. Adult settlers are now frequently executing planned, violent attacks. In the past month alone, two Human Rights Workers required stitches to their heads after being stoned, and another suffered a mild concussion. On the 22nd of April, a mob of 30 settler adults and teenagers attacked a Palestinian shop using sharpened metal poles, assaulting Palestinian children and international volunteers in the process.

At the press conference held at the Alternative Information Center office in Jerusalem, speakers from the Tel Rumeida Project, the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) talked about their first hand experiences of settler violence. Luna Ruiz, from the Tel Rumeida Project warned that “our lives are in danger”. Mary Baxter from the ISM said that the most important people in Hebron were the Palestinian school children, who she described as the “bravest people [she’d] ever met” and the “heroes of Tel Rumeida”. Anne Montgomery, a 79 year old nun from CPT and Anna Svensson from the ISM also spoke about their firsthand experiences of settler violence. Arik Asherman from Rabbis for Human Rights, and Ruth Kedar from Yesh Din were among the speakers from Israeli organizations who made statements in solidarity with the work of the international Human Rights Workers in Hebron. “These attacks are part of an attempt by the settlers to the prevent documentation of their activities,” said Eran Zax from Sons of Abraham, another Israeli organization.

A copy of an open letter detailing the dangerous situation in Tel Rumeida that was sent to outgoing and incoming Defense Ministers Shaul Mofaz and Amir Peretz, as well as the Chief of the General Staff and several other high-level Israeli figures was distributed at the conference. It is also available online at: http://www.palsolidarity.org/main/2006/04/26/open-letter-heb1/

The involvement of adults -who are more easily prosecuted than settler youth- seems to indicate a recognition by the Hebron settlers that the consequences for violence are acceptably small. Indeed, the Israeli army and police often fail to prevent settler violence, and rarely arrest and punish the perpetrators. If the Israeli army continues to turn a blind eye to such actions, human rights organizations fear that the situation will only grow increasingly dangerous.

For more information:
Luna Ruiz (Tel Rumeida Project) 054 557 3154
Yossi (AIC) 0525 210 184