by the Tel Rumeida Project and ISM Hebron
At approximately 2pm on September 9th, 2006, six young settler men, between the ages of 16 and 19, moved down Shuhada Street, in Tel Rumeida, from the neighborhood checkpoint towards Beit Hadassah settlement. An elderly Palestinian woman was sweeping her stoop slightly more than halfway down the same street. Two Human Rights Workers (HRWs) saw that the young men were being particularly loud and obstreperous. Fearing for the woman’s safety, one HRW crossed to the woman, pointed out the settlers, and tried to suggest that she go inside her house. The woman either didn’t understand, or chose to continue cleaning, and the first HRW moved to the opposite side of the street, in order to avoid drawing the settlers’ attention to the woman. The second HRW remained several meters further down the street, her video camera still in its bag, and prepared to document any aggression by the settlers.
Moments later, the settlers drew within roughly ten meters of the elderly woman’s stoop, and veered towards her, shouting at her in Hebrew. The woman started slowly to withdraw, clearly not comfortable with the behavior of the settlers. The first HRW moved quickly back across the street, and placed himself between the settlers and the woman, hoping to give her time to get inside and lock the door. The settlers started yelling at the HRW to get out of the way, which he refused to do. All six settlers then attacked the HRW, kicking, punching, and shoving him against the wall of the house.
At this point, the second HRW, about eight meters away, took out a video camera in order to record the attack. The settlers quickly peeled away from the first HRW and rushed the second, shouting at her, trying to grab the camera, pushing her, and eventually tearing the video camera out of her grip. They then hurled the camera to the ground, and proceeded to kick it along the street down towards Beit Hadassah settlement. The HRWs followed them, shouting at them to stop it, to give back the camera. The settlers, however, kept kicking the camera all the way past the Israeli army checkpoint and into the first section of the settlement, where one of them picked it up and ran into a settler building, while the others continued down Shuhada Street, further into the settlement.
This entire sequence of events took place within 25 meters of the manned Isreali army post mentioned above. The soldier at the post took no action at any time, despite the HRWs’ calls for help, and the passage of the camera-kicking settlers less than two meters in front of his post. When the first HRW asked the soldier why he did nothing to help, the soldier replied that he couldn’t do anything. This was patently absurd, given that the soldier was armed with an M-16, while the attacking settlers were unarmed, and clearly in their late teens, rather than small children who may be immune from military detention. The first HRW then demanded the soldier call the police, which he appeared to do.
After describing the attack to a series of soldiers, including a 1st lieutenant with some command authority, the HRWs repeated the procedure with a number of police officers. The first policeman with whom they spoke attempted to blame the HRWs use of a camera on the “peaceful holy day” of Shabbat. Eventually, the police took the HRWs to view two suspects who they had detained. Neither HRW could be absolutely certain that the detainees were among those who attacked them, so the suspects were released, and the HRWs were taken to the Kiryat Arba police headquarters to file complaints for the assault and for the robbery of the camera.
Some time after the HRWs’ return from Kiryat Arba, the second HRW was informed by the second lieutenant mentioned above that the soldiers at the IDF post had identified two of the attackers, who were then arrested by the police. This has not yet been confirmed, but, if true, long-term HRWs in Tel Rumeida believe it is the first arrest of settlers in connection with an attack on either Palestinians or HRWs in the past six months.