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70 Palestinians detained at Tel Rumeida checkpoint

by ISM Hebron

On the morning of June 18, four Israeli border police and two Israeli soldiers were present at the checkpoint leading into the Tel Rumeida district of Hebron.

The policemen turned up at 7:20am and began conducting their own ‘security checks.’ Palestinians and human rights groups see these checks as a continual daily harassment against the Palestinians by the occupying forces. The harassment involved checking the ID of virtually all Palestinian males aged ten-years and older (including elderly men) who wished to pass through the checkpoint in either direction. Most of the Palestinian males were detained for more than fifteen minutes, six for more than half-an-hour, and two for more than an hour. At least three Palestinian males had their details recorded on paper.

The majority of detained Palestinians were not carrying anything, and none were behaving suspiciously or provoking the policemen or soldiers.

Initially, the human rights workers (HRWs) began trying to talk with the policemen. When the HRWs talked to the policemen, they could not get a serious response. After three interventions, the policemen began to ignore the HRWs, and even became aggressive.

The human rights workers were repeatedly instructed not to speak to the detained Palestinians. The HRWs asked that the Palestinians be allowed to contact their employers or families to let them know what was happening. The policeman refused to allow the Palestinians to make phone calls. One example is a boy of approximately fourteen-years. One HRW approached the boy after he had been detained for at least fifteen minutes, and offered him her phone so he could call his family to let them know what was happening. The policemen was not happy with this, saying “Next time you ask me before you talk to them!”

The policemen directed provocations at the human rights workers throughout their time at the checkpoint. The provocations were essentially limited to mocking laughter, pointing and jeering. At one point, two of the policemen ran off toward a Palestinian property, pretending to be serious. They briefly disappeared from view, and when one of the HRWs followed them, the two policemen reappeared. All of the policemen then proceeded to mock and jeer at the human rights worker who had followed.

One policeman tried to show an HRW a video on his mobile phone of a beheading in Iraq. When the HRW realized what he was being shown and waved the phone away, the policeman began to laugh loudly in a mocking way. Another policeman showed the video to another HRW and explained that “They are all the same,” and that they “are killing Americans” in Iraq.

Overall, upwards of 70 Palestinian males were detained for up to one hour, and for an average time of ten to twenty-five minutes.

At approximately 11:45am, the policemen decided to halt their ‘security checks’ and left along Shuhada Street. They then proceeded to their base next to the illegal Israeli settlement of Beit Hadassah.

In the evening, two different Israeli soldiers were manning the Shuhada Street checkpoint. They repeatedly closed the gates which significantly increased the amount of time required for Palestinians to pass through the checkpoint. Periodically, the two soldiers additionally refused to open the side gate to let Palestinians pass with bulky goods, making their passage through the checkpoint much more difficult. One elderly male had to have a human rights worker help him unload his trolley and carry his goods through the checkpoint so that he could manage to get the empty trolley through the checkpoint.

The soldiers also refused to let a group of four female Palestinians pass because they did not have their ID.