by ISM Hebron and Tel Rumeida Project
At 1.30pm on Sunday 8th October 2006, soldiers closed the main checkpoint into Tel Rumeida, Hebron (checkpoint 56) to all people wanting to enter H1 (the part of Hebron under Palestinian Authority control). Pedestrian traffic in the opposite direction was not restricted. International Human Rights Workers (HRWs) approached the soldiers who would not give a reason for the closure other than “it is Succot” (a Jewish holiday). Palestinians wishing to pass through the checkpoint were told to climb the steep hill of Tel Rumeida and enter H1 via another checkpoint instead, regardless of the lengthy detour that this would involve. Soldiers also informed Palestinians that the checkpoint would remain closed until 7pm.
Twenty-four soldiers then passed through the checkpoint into H1 where they ordered the closure of shops, diverted traffic (causing gridlock in Hebron for much of the afternoon) and took a sniffer dog around parts of the city centre. Soldiers roamed around in H1 for no apparent reason and would not make any comments about why they were in parts of the city that had not been ordered closed.
At 3.30pm a large group of settlers and pro-settler tourists came to the H2 (the area of Hebron formally controlled by the Israeli army and police) side of the checkpoint and deliberately obstructed the path of Palestinians entering H2 for several minutes, refusing to stand aside when asked. This group were then allowed to pass through the checkpoint without being searched, while throughout the day Palestinians had been subject to unusually rigorous bag checks. Despite having their own private armed guards, the settlers and tourists were accompanied by over 30 soldiers and police officers. Soldiers later informed HRWs that the tourists had come to Hebron to visit the Cave of Otniel Ben-Knaz, which is located within the ground floor of a private Palestinian house in H1. Meanwhile in H1, HRWs witnessed the tourists making “victory” signs to the Palestinians they passed.
At 4pm the tourists and soldiers returned to checkpoint 56 and most continued along Al Shuhada Street to the Beit Hadassah settlement. Shortly afterwards, soldiers fired tear gas at Palestinians on the H1 side of the checkpoint after a small crowd had begun throwing stones and letting off fireworks. The checkpoint was then reopened and remained open for the rest of the afternoon. A small group of tourists later came to the checkpoint to take photographs of the HRWs and to tell them to “get the fuck out of Israel”.
* The video shows the following: First section: Palestinians are denied access through a checkpoint because Israeli settlers are present. Second section: border policeman drops a tear gas canister. Third section: soldiers emerge from a street they have closed off and invade the rest of the city. Fourth section: soldiers give no reason for what they are doing in the city center.
11th October. The video links to this post previously pointed to the wrong video. This has now been fixed.