by Tel Rumeida Project and ISM Hebron, 18th October 2006
At approximately 12.40pm an Israeli border police van stopped and asked two international Human Rights Workers (HRWs) on Shuhada Street whether they spoke English. When they replied that they did, one of the border police said, “I no speak English” and the policemen drove away. This happened a couple of times, until the border police stopped again and asked one of the HRWs if they could see the film on her camera. One of the policemen then looked through the pictures on the HRW’s digital camera, apparently looking for photos of soldiers, of which there were none. The policemen were all unusually friendly during all these exchanges. A short while later, the van pulled up at a nearby checkpoint and a few of the border police jumped out of the back of the van and chased each other a short way up the street, trying to hit each other. Later, the border police van stopped again, and the driver of the police van blew kisses to both the male HRW and the female HRW on Shuhada Street. He then made hand gestures to a young Palestinian child, who had been talking to the HRWs, to approach him. Once the child had approached, he then made hand gestures for him to go away and repeated this sequence several times. The border policemen’s behaviour during all these incidents was very unusual and the HRWs wondered at its cause, although they saw no signs of alcohol use or any other such substance during these incidents.
At shortly before 5pm, three Israeli army vans pulled up at the checkpoint and two HRWs noticed that some of the soldiers had gone into the entrance of a Palestinian house next to the checkpoint. They seemed to be interfering with the ground-floor door to a Palestinian dwelling but when questioned by a HRW as to what they were doing, the soldiers refused to answer. A Palestinian lady and child left the building shortly afterwards and seemed to be saying that the army had not entered their house. Shortly after this, approximately 12 soldiers suddenly rushed through checkpoint 56 into H1 (under the 1997 Hebron Protocol, the H1 area of the city that is supposed to be controlled by the Palestinian Authority). They linked up with a further 10 to 12 soldiers and marched around the Old City for approximately 10-15 minutes. They then split into two groups – one of about fourteen, the other of approximately six. After a couple more minutes, the larger group entered a military base. On walking back through the Old City four soldiers were seen standing outside a children’s toyshop. On closer inspection another two soldiers were seen standing inside talking with the shop’s owner. After a few minutes they left. The shop owner indicated that the soldiers had been looking at toy guns and showed the HRW an empty box from which a gun had been taken. Whether the soldiers paid for the toy gun could not be determined. Just before the checkpoint to re-enter Tel Rumeida, the soldiers stopped a taxi, made the owner get out and examined his boot, before letting him go. A HRW on the H2 (Israeli controlled side under the Hebron Protocol) side of checkpoint 56 saw the soldiers returning from the patrol and carrying the toy gun. The soldiers were obviously very excited by this toy and pretended to fire at each other with it.