On Christmas Eve, Dec. 24 at 10:40pm, three international human rights workers (HRW’s)were assaulted by a group of six soldiers on the roadway after the Jewish cemetary in the Tel Rumeida district of Hebron.
The HRW’s had just returned from celebrating Christmas Eve in Bethlehem and had been denied entry through Checkpoint 56 to the roadway leading up to their residence.
The HRW’s used an alternate route to reach the roadway leading to their residence, climbing up an embankment and entering the roadway at the corner near the Jewish cemetary. As they entered the roadway, they were met by a group of six soldiers including one whose face was covered by a black ski mask. The soldiers yelled at the HRW’s in Hebrew and then began shoving them back towards the embankment.
One of the HRW’s was then kicked in the back as he retreated and another was kicked in the crotch and then pushed over the rocky drop-off. After waiting for the soldiers to depart, the HRW’s then returned to their residence via another route.
The area past Checkpoint 56 has been declared a closed military zone through Dec. 31, 2009 and internationals have been repeatedly denied entry by the soldiers at the checkpoint and the police, but it has been understood that the internationals could still access their residence via an unofficial route including another roadway and trail through a field. The police officers denying entry at #56 in the past have told internationals to use the alternate route.
It is believed by the HRW’s that the military closure is illegal in that it is a long standing order in a residential area denying internationals access to their contracted residence. Their is no current military conflict and Palestinian residents are permitted passage through the checkpoint to their residences although harassment is a common occurrence. The singling out of internationals appears designed to eliminate witnesses to abuses committed by Israeli settlers, police and military. The HRW’s are determined to maintain their presence in hopes of helping to curtail such abuse.