Three days ago the city of Hebron awoke to the sound of shooting and shouting. The Army cleared the checkpoint area with tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets and then occupied a house overhead to watch and shoot at the boys who threw stones. A few minutes later the army and the border police arrived with four or five jeeps. They began to move the boys back from the settlements using rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas. The fighting kept going all day, merging with various demonstrations that brought the numbers up to 3000 in the city centre.
The violence escalated throughout the day with the boys making barricades and throwing Molotov cocktails. The Army responded with live ammunition and many were injured throughout the day. Some reports estimate 40 injured, although other say more.
The next day the fighting started again, although to a lesser extent. Most Hebronites simply watched the Army and the boys fighting. The number of boys fell to between fifty and one hundred. Most of the stones were were well out of range of the army but Human Rights Workers witnessed the use of rubber-coated steel bullets and live ammunition.
Yesterday the Army took no chances and called in the PA authorities. The centre of Hebron was occupied by dozens of PA officers armed with AK-47’s. The fighting was little and sporadic with only one real incident which was quickly cleared by the IOF.
The Army made many arrests throughout the day, trying to track down ringleaders or those whom had committed the most violence. Human Rights Workers witnessed six boys being held in the Tel Rumeida checkpoint. They were all cuffed and blindfolded. Most were between 17 and 22 but there were two boys as young as 14 and 15. After being held for two hours four of the older boys were taken by the Border Police. But the two youngest boys stayed in the checkpoint all night, for a total of 14 hours. HRW’s ensured that water and bathroom breaks were given but the soldiers insisted that no blankets should be given to the boys even though they were in short T-shirts and it was a cold night. One soldier insisted that they “are criminals and deserve to be punished”, another said that they should “suffer all night to teach them a lesson”. However other HRW’s noticed that one blanket had been given as the evening went on. The next day three more boys were arrested and taken to the checkpoint, they were not blindfolded however and HRW’s were able to get their names and ages. They were taken by the Army into the miltary base in Tel Rumeida.
The village of Beit Ummar did not escape the demonstrations and violence of the past few days. Before the Gaza incidents Beit Ummar held a spate of non-violent protests which were quickly dissipated by the Army. In one incident the settlers came out of Karmet Sour and began firing on the crowd with live ammunition, though luckily no one was hurt. However in response to the Gaza crisis the students held several demonstrations against the military tower that watches over the village. Unfortunately one boy was injured with a rubber-coated steel bullet in the leg and another boy was shot through the head with live ammunition. He remains in a critical condition in a Hebron hospital.
Yesterday the Old City was thoroughly searched by the Army. Many shops were shut, the Army made improvised checkpoints and banned many people from entering at all. Most shops were searched and the Army cordoned areas as no-go zones. Palestinians here hope that the Army does not find an excuse to shut down the Old City
The fighting seems to have ended in Hebron for the moment. Yesterday the children’s municipality called a meeting in conjunction with the Red Crescent as to the city’s response to the fighting and the Gaza crisis. Many suggestions were put forward including the use of international help, boycotts of Israeli products and better use of the media. Hopefully this will be the first of many meetings to decide the cities response to this situation.