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Holy Days IOF Offensive in the South Hebron Hills

Susiya, Hebron Region, September 15th

Shortly after 10 am, Saturday morning, a troop of 6 fully-armed Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) soldiers, coming from the direction of the military base to the northwest, marched directly across the property of Mohammed Nowaja and his extended family. The soldiers marched in convoy, ignoring all attempts of internationals present to communicate with them, from one end to the other of the property, continuing across the valley and up the next hill onto the neighboring property of Ismail Nawaja’s family. At the tents of this extended family, the soldiers altered their direct line march to instead weave all around the property, making their invasive presence felt everywhere.

During this time, two Human Rights Workers (HRWs) continually attempted to communicate with the soldiers, alternately soliciting the reason behind the soldiers’ hostile raid and reminding the soldiers that the property on which they traipsed was in fact civilian private property, despite the repeated demolitions of their homes and attempts to drive the residents out of the Susiya area, and asking to see an official permit for the soldiers’ raid.

HRWs also emphasized that there were many small children, including numerous infants, who were terrified by the presence of the invading, armed soldiers. The international workers also questioned why the soldiers had determined to invade these many tents on this day, in particular, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. They further inquired why the soldiers were not at least doing what has often been said is their duty in the region: to prevent violence from either the Palestinians or the settlers of the area.

[For the last two days, an average of 8 settlers from the Susiya settlement have attempted to cross onto the property of Jamal Nowaja when his young wife Sanaa was alone with her children, only turning back when they saw a neighbouring Palestinian grazing his sheep near by. HRWs arriving at the scene continued to film these teenage settlers as they ran back towards the settlement and stationed themselves at the soldiers’ outpost, where they continued their verbal threats and harassment, including shouting sharmuta at the young woman attempting to do her work. When HRWs questioned one soldier after the second incidence of these settler youths’ harassment—the settlers still present just meters away—the soldier feigned ignorance, then attempted to brush off responsibility for the youths’ actions, only finally admitting that he should and would prevent their harassment in the future.]

The soldiers never returned communication, aside from a final passing of gas when seated at the military outpost near the Susiya settlement. This elicited a series of giggles from the soldiers, which was the only verbalization HRWs were able to obtain from the soldiers.

Interestingly, the IOF soldiers timed their mini-invasion when UN aid workers were present and witness to the harassment: the roving medical clinic of UNRWA was visiting the Nowaja family and viewed the entire proceedings.

The Hebrew-speaking Palestinians present at Mohammed Nowaja’s tents later told HRWs that they had heard one soldier instruct the other soldiers, in Hebrew, to not speak with the HRWs.

This is the second time in three days—the first being Wednesday night, before the start of both Ramadan and Rosh Hashana—that soldiers have invaded these properties. Wednesday evening they came around 10 in the evening, when most of the family had gone to bed, poking their guns in the faces of two young family members still awake, before continuing across their property towards the settlement.

It should be noted that there is a perfectly usable road which near-parallels the route the soldiers are taking across Palestinian lands, and which would render it faster and easier to reach their destination. It is clear that the IOF walks across the Palestinian land is yet another form of menacing the civilians of the area.