Our group was tired out after the large settler attack yesterday and apprehensive about what might happen over the coming week. We were hoping for a quiet day, and we got that. So here’s a description of a quiet day in Tel Rumeida…
International volunteers from EAPPI, ISM and TRP on the streets at 7am to monitor the children travelling to school in case of attacks by settlers. I stay close to Tel Rumeida settlement to watch the children who live close to the settlement buildings and have to walk down the hill past the settlement buildings and two army posts. There have been attacks on these children, stonings and beatings, but this morning there are none.
More internationals monitor the children as they walk down the hill toward the school. EAPPI accompany the children to school and stay throughout the school day.
At about noon the children return from school. Again, internationals monitor the areas close to Tel Rumeida and Beit Hadassa settlements. I watch for the children walking up past the IDF guardpost towards Beit Hadassa. This is terrifying for the children as they have been attacked in this area many times. Today the soldiers are new and stop them, ask them where they are going and search their schoolbags.
EAPPI accompany several girls who live at a house only accessible on a narrow path alongside Tel Rumeida settlement. This Palestinian family have fought a Supreme Court battle in Israel for the right to use this strip of land and won. However the IDF have placed a roll of razor wire across the path. At one point the family could lift the wire to access the path to their house. Then sandbags were placed on the wire to prevent this. Now the children must step over the roll of wire, opposite the IDF guardpost and the homes of violent illegal settlers to access the path home.
This morning the IDF soldier manning the guardpost did not know about the Supreme Court decision and refused the children entry. International volunteers from ISM and EAPPI tried to explain the situation but the soldiers would not be convinced. The human rights workers called the police and army, and during the wait some settlers emerged and told the troops the children were not allowed to pass. This was an outright lie. The settlers called us “Nazis”.
Eventually a jeep arrived with an officer who confirmed that the children were indeed allowed to walk down the path.
As the children stepped over the barbed wire, a settler remarked to her daughter “I hope they trip”.
This incident highlights a reoccuring problem in Tel Rumeida; new army units are not properly briefed when they take over, and so the soldiers have to learn the ground rules, usually at the expense of the Palestinian residents who suffer yet more delays, searches, and ID checks until the soldiers learn the locals are not the problem here.
Calm returns to the area for all of five to ten minutes, then boom! Boom! Two small explosions, one right after the other, from the direction of the Palestinian souk (market) in the H2 zone, just outside the perimeter. The two bored sentries who man a concrete guard position at the top of the hill are suddenly tense and alert, guns levelled, scanning the streets in front of their position for trouble. From the old souk comes a cloud of pale smoke or dust, and the distant sound of car alarms and horns and confusion. Some kind of bomb, or a controlled explosion on a suspected bomb? We have no idea, and neither have the soldiers, who gradully relax as the cloud dissapates in the gusty air.
The EAPPI workers go off-duty and as always we’re sad to see them go. An hour or two passes and we’re mostly sat at the curbside enjoying the warmth of “sunny intervals” as the BBC would call the mixture of clouds and sunshine. Occasionally we take a stroll down the hill, past the soldiers, and down to the checkpoint. Then right onto the main street, as almost always eerie and deserted. We try to monitor both streets because of possible settler attacks.
Later in the afternoon we see three young settlers walking down Tel Rumeida hill. They seem innocent enough but as they pass they whisper “I kill you”. They meet a Palestinian child near the bottom of the hill and lunge towards him. We shout “Stop” and begin to film, they look at us and quickly move on.
The rest of the day is quiet but as we are crossing the checkpoint to buy food for supper a member of the team is detained and told they will be “arrested”. They are kept there for an hour before being released.