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Palestinian families in Hebron endure illegal collective punishment by Israeli soldiers

19 September 2009

Al-Khalil/Hebron, 19 September 2009: Elderly women and children were left in deep distress and two men were injured when over 40 Israeli soldiers broke into a family home in the Tel Rumeida neighbourhood of Hebron last night. Soldiers set off tear-gas grenades and deafening “sound-bombs” in the tightly packed entrance way to the family’s home.

Children, still in shock, cowered behind relatives as the elderly family matriarch explained to activists from the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) how Israeli soldiers enforcing the occupation of the Palestinian West Bank stormed into the house shortly after sundown and grabbed her by her headscarf. The soldiers demanded to know the whereabouts of local youths who they accused of throwing stones. Although the women of the household tried explain that there were no youths in the home the soldiers used the weapons to intimate and punish the local community. Household objects were smashed and the owner of the home, an elderly man, was struck by a soldier, leaving him bleeding from the collar-bone and requiring hospital treatment. A young Palestinian man passing by was beaten on the head and face by the same group of soldiers.

ISM activists trying to photograph the events were violently forced away by soldiers. Two male activists were kicked and punched in the genitals by soldiers and a female activist who was taking photographs of the event was threatened with rape by one soldier.

Despite being asked several times by the international activists, the soldiers refused to call the Israeli police to the scene.

Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention defines the collective punishment of a population under occupation as a war crime but such acts are used as a routine method of control by Israeli forces in Hebron in which hundreds of ideologically extreme Israeli settlers, lead by Baruch Marzel, head of the Jewish National Front, have colonised houses in the city centre expelling Palestinians in the process.