As part of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, hundreds of religious visitors traveled to the West Bank city of Hebron on Sunday to view various religious sites and the settlements within the area. In previous years this event has coincided with incidences of violence towards local Palestinians and Human Rights Workers (HRWs), so efforts were made this year to provide a large international presence in an attempt to ensure that any aggression was documented and that the event passed peacefully. International HRWs accompanied local children to school before providing observation at check-points and outside a house recently illegally occupied by force by settlers, now protected by the Israeli Occupation Force (IOF).
Though the first day of the holiday passed reasonably peacefully, it was not without incident. Whilst international HRWs worked around the vicinity of Tel Rumeida, Israeli settlers managed to gain access to Issa’s house and steal the two Palestinian flags flying from the building. Previously occupied by both the IOF and Israeli settlers, the repossession of the property by its legal Palestinian owners has made Issa’s house a target of repeated aggressive action on behalf of the settler community.
Later in the day two HRWs were detained by the Israeli police for about an hour and threatened with arrest for providing observation in an area which was being used by the religious visitors to walk up to the Tel Rumeida settlement, an area also busy with local Palestinian residents. Due to the history of settler aggression the HRWs informed the police that despite their request they would not vacate the area unless the correct, legal documents were shown. After two other HRWs managed to contact the Head of Hebron Police Department the two detainees were immediately released.
With the influx of visitors to Hebron expected to continue for the next two days local activists and international HRWs will continue to coordinate efforts to observe any acts of aggression towards the local Palestinian population and property.