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Tel Rumeida: International observers and Palestinians alike targeted by checkpoints

by Alistair George

27 October 2011 | International Solidarity Movement, West Bank

 The Israeli military is continuing to harass and intimidate Palestinians and international volunteers at checkpoints throughout Tel Rumeida, Hebron.

 On 25 October 2011, around 7.15pm, a Palestinian woman was held at checkpoint56 inTel Rumeida for around an hour after refusing to pass through the metal detector.  The woman claimed that she was unwell and had been instructed by her doctor that it was not safe to pass through metal detectors.  Although she produced papers from the doctor showing that she was ill, the soldiers refused to let her pass.  She was eventually allowed to continue her journey, without passing through the metal detector, after the Israeli police were called and allowed her to return home.

Since 11 October 2011, the Israeli military has stated that pregnant women, people with heart devices and those with medical conditions are required to pass through the metal detector, despite the health risks posed.  Furthermore, teachers at Qordoba school have also been forced to pass through the metal detector and submit their bags for inspection, despite passing through a separate gate for the last seven years.  Six children were sent to hospital on 11 October 2011 after being injured by the Israeli military during protests against the treatment of the school’s teachers.  On October 16 2011, Israeli soldiers shot tear gas at a group of young schoolchildren and female teachers, who were attempting to hold a lesson outside of the checkpoint as an act of protest.

However, the Israeli military has repeatedly attempted to confiscate the passports of international activists as they pass through the checkpoints of Tel Rumeida; a practice which is illegal under Israeli law and appears designed to harass international observers going about their work in the area.  The military has the right to ask to see passports and record details if deemed necessary – provided that the passports remain in the possession of the owner  In several instances where international activists have refused to hand over their passports, the Israeli police have been called to intervene – often resulting in a 30 minute delay at the checkpoint.

On 25 October 2011, at around 12.50pm, an international activist was assaulted by the Israeli military after refusing to comply with an illegal demand to hand over their passport.  The soldier pushed and then kicked the activist with significant force; the activist stated that “It seemed that perhaps my awareness of Israeli law and my refusal to comply to his illegal demands antagonised the solider.”  Again, the police were called and looked at the passport before allowing the activist to continue their journey.

On 27 October 2011, several international activists were held at checkpoint56 inTel Rumeida for over an hour after refusing to hand over their passports to the Israeli military.  The police were called – however, in this instance they colluded in the military’s illegal activity by taking the passports and then handing them to soldiers for inspection.  The Israeli military confiscated three of the passports and kept them at the checkpoint for around 20 minutes.  The senior police officer, who gave his name as ‘Assaf’, threatened to arrest any international visitors to the area who refuse to hand over their passports to the military in the future; effectively threatening to arrest international activists for obeying Israeli law.

Alistair George is an activist with International Solidarity Movement (name has been changed).