by Tel Rumeida Project and ISM Hebron
September 9th, 2006
Around 2pm today, while sitting on the top of the hill in Tel Rumeida, Hebron, soldiers ordered Palestinian children and Human Rights Workers (HRWs) to stop playing football in the street. The HRW asked the soldier what the problem was, and he replied, “You’re bothering me. Stop playing football here.” The HRW asked the soldier if it was illegal to play football in the street, and the soldier said, “No, it’s not illegal, but you’re bothering me. Stop playing football here. Thank you.” The Palestinian children and HRWs continued to play football for about two more minutes, then sat back down. Approximately ten minutes later, HRWs noticed two Israeli settler children looking over the fence and into the yard of a Palestinian home. Israeli settlers have been tearing down and breaking grape vines from this house over the past week, as well as stealing the grapes. One HRW walked towards the direction of the children, and they left. The HRW then stepped inside the Palestinian shoe shop nearby to say hello and see how things were going.
At this point, six settler boys around the age of 16 came down the hill. The international stood in the doorway, continuing her conversation. One settler boy, who approached this HRW the day before and called her a ‘bitch’ in Hebrew, aggressively approached the door of the shop and tried to enter. The HRW blocked his way with her body and told him, “You are not welcome in this shop. This is a private business.” The settler began yelling at the HRW in Hebrew. The HRW continued to block the door. The remaining settler boys surrounded the other HRW and began yelling at him in Hebrew. They then started to lightly whip the HRW with their tzitzit (the tassles that religious Jews wear). Two soldiers posted nearby approached and told the HRW to leave and quit making problems. The settler boys then proceeded to stand in a circle in the middle of the road and jump up and down, holding hands, singing a song in Hebrew very loudly. The soldier who had told the Palestinians and HRWs not to play football then told the HRWs that it would be better if we weren’t sitting outside causing problems and bothering the settlers on Shabbat. The soldier asked us what we were doing there and asked why we couldn’t go somewhere else. The HRWs ended the conversation at this point.
Approximately ten minutes later, eight soldiers came running down the hill. The last soldier in the contingent stopped at the gate of a house and kicked a small child who appeared to be about eight years old. The HRWs yelled at the soldier, but he ignored the HRWs and continued down the hill. He was wearing a red kippa and holding his helmet in his hand. One HRW approached a commander and told him about the soldier. She was able to point out the soldier; the commander called the soldier over to him. As the commander walked back past the HRWs, he told them, “You should file a report. What he did was bad.”
HRWs then received a phone call from HRWs on Shuhada Street saying they had just been attacked by the settlers. These were the same settlers in the incident on the top of the hill. A separate report will follow with the details of this incident.
At approximately 3:30pm, three HRWs were sitting on Shuhada Street. Settler children were milling about the soldier’s post next to Beit Hadassa Settlement. The HRWs noticed three settler boys walking down Shuhada Street towards the settlement, seemingly prepared for violence. As the boys walked past the HRWs, they focused their attention on the two women in the group. The settler boys spit on the HRWs and cursed them in Hebrew. The HRWs then stood up and told the settler boys to leave. One boy had a short stick twice as thick as a broom handle. He threatened one HRW with the stick, but did not hit her. The HRWs yelled at the settler boys to leave and called for the soldier. The soldier eventually came out of his post and smiled gently at the boys. They eventually left, but not without threatening one HRW with the stick again and throwing a few rocks.
About ten minutes later, a Palestinian woman coming from the Qurtuba girls school stairs said that settler boys had thrown rocks at her. One HRW went towards the stairs and saw about 15 kids about the age of 8-10 sitting on the path to the school, destroying it. The HRW asked the soldier to help stop the kids, but he said that it wasn’t his job; he then went back into his post. The Palestinian woman who had come from the path ten minutes before came back; HRWs immediately offered to accompany her back on the path. She was extremely relieved that we said we would go with her. HRWs walked her past the settlers without incident and then went back to Shuhada Street. This went on with three more Palestinians, all without major incident. HRWs had called the police in the meantime to report the damage to the path. The police came and began yelling at the children. HRWs continued to accompany Palestinians on the path. Each time, the settler kids were more aggressive towards the Palestinians and HRWs, spitting on them and blocking their path. The last time HRWs walked a Palestinian on the path, settler girls about the age of 12 forcefully blocked the path and stopped the HRWs from passing. HRWs non-violently pushed their way through the group of settler kids. Anat Cohen, a settler woman well-known for being aggressive towards Palestinians and HRWs, blocked the second HRW. Anat Cohen said over and over again, “Go to Aushwitz! Go to Aushwitz you Nazi!” The HRW did not reply.
Fifteen minutes later, the border police and regular police approached the HRWs sitting on Shuhada Street. They filmed one female HRW, then surrounded her and demanded that she hand over her passport. The HRW had been travelling earlier in the day and had left her passport in the house. The police officer ordered another HRW to get the passport from the house. The police arrested the first HRW in the meantime. The HRW was held at Kiryat Arba Police Station for four hours then released without charges.