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Old City invasion in Hebron

by ISM Hebron, February 8th

At around 11.30 this morning a group of soldiers went through checkpoint 56 (the main checkpoint into Tel Rumeida) in response to a demonstration in the Bab Al-Zawiye market area against the excavations damaging the foundations of the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

The soldiers went to the top floor of a house overlooking the crowded market and pointed their guns towards the crowded market area. Some Palestinian youth responded by throwing a few small stones at the house. The IOF left the building and chased after them, firing sound bombs and teargas. More soldiers arrived at the scene, now totalling about thirty.

Soldiers yelled at local residents observing the invasion from their windows to go inside. One soldier threatened to arrest a young child for throwing stones but the child replied that he had been playing football.

Some human rights workers (HRWs) followed some soldiers to the top floor of a house but were then prevented from following them onto the roof. The HRWs then observed from a building on the opposite side of King Faisal street. Again the soldiers aimed their guns at the public and soon stones were thrown at them from the street. They reacted by throwing sound grenades down and shot some teargas in the direction of the stone throwers. As the stone throwing continued the IOF on the street then retreated back to checkpoint 56.

Soon after that, another group of 8 soldiers came running from the market area and stopped in front of a building , firing teargas and rubber bullets towards groups of Palestinian youth. Youth on a rooftop began throwing stones and bottles at the arriving soldiers and also threw down a water container.

A group of HRWs then followed the soldiers inside the building from which projectiles were thrown. The public on the street warned the Palestinian youth on the roof the soldiers were coming. As the soldiers were running up the stairs, they tried to prevent the HRWs from following them, but the internationals persisted in documenting the acts of the soldiers. The entrance to the top floor was closed by a steel fence, which the soldiers tried to open by force. They used metal sticks, tried to kick the door open and used their M-16s as crowbars, but they still failed. The soldiers who became quite frustrated went down again. They headed back to checkpoint 56 without making any arrests.

Soldiers continued to patrol the alleyways of the Old City all afternoon, firing sound bombs, tear gas and rubber bullets at local youth.

At around 17:00 two army jeeps were still posted in the Bab-al-Zawiya area. Soldiers were again pelted with stones, and again they shot teargas into the now closed market area. When the HRWs went back through the checkpoint they saw a Palestinian boy of about 14 being detained by the army. He had already been there for about 45 minutes because he had made a remark to the soldiers, according to TIPH (Temporary International Presence in Hebron). Moments later he was released.

Meanwhile in Tel Rumeida, when two HRWs were playing football with young Palestinian children on the street, an Israeli settler woman called Sarah Marzel walked by. Sarah Marzel is notorious for giving orders to soldiers and border police to stop Palestinians reaching their homes on the other side of the street or making false allegations about every little detail in the behavior of Palestinians.

Sarah was walking slowly with her stroller back and forth on the same street where the HRWs were playing with children. She continued in this way for 40-50 minutes, and every time she came close the children stopped playing football and waited for her. Even the soldiers found her behaviour odd and when one soldier followed her she complained that the children had tried to attack her baby. She was speaking loudly and pointing at us and the soldier told her that he would talk to us. Thinking it strange that there was no movement or sound coming from the stroller with all the noise and sound bombs in Bab Al Zawiye, an HRW got close enough to see that there was no baby in the stroller, only one thick blanket.


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