The Israeli Defense Forces and the border police expend extraordinary efforts to defend the Jewish community of Hebron, which numbers some 400 souls. But the attitude of the Hebron settlers, certainly the extremist among them, is hostile. They view the IDF as a tool to carry out their objective, which is, in the end, to seize control of Palestinian Hebron.
Israeli transport minister and former deputy defense minister Ephraim Sneh, April 1, 2001.181
The law is toothless here. I have no means to remove the hooligans.
Hebron IDF Brigade Commander Noam Tivon, April 2, 2001, discussing settler abuses in Hebron.182
Four small Jewish settlements are located in the heart of Hebron and are home to a population of some five hundred Jews. The area surrounding the four settlements, as well as the Cave of the Patriarchs (known to Muslims as the Ibrahimi Mosque) and a road connecting the downtown Hebron settlements to the larger Kiriat Arba and Givat Harsina settlements, remains under full Israeli control and is known as "H2," after its designation under the special Hebron redeployment protocol signed in 1997. Some 30,000 Palestinians live in the H2 area. The settlers living in downtown Hebron are widely considered to include some of the most extremist Israeli settlers living in the West Bank, and tensions between the settlers and their Palestinian neighbors have long been marked by severe tensions, often exploding into violence.
The five hundred settlers living in downtown Hebron are protected by a large contingent of IDF soldiers-in fact, the number of IDF soldiers deployed there in 1999 outnumbered the number of IDF soldiers then deployed in all of Israeli-occupied southern Lebanon, according to then-Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh.183 The virtual blanketing of the H2 area with IDF checkpoints, the constant patrolling of the town by IDF soldiers, and the ubiquitous deployment of IDF positions on the rooftops of Palestinian and settler homes ensures that most settler attacks must be witnessed by IDF soldiers. In many cases, the attacks or abuses take place within meters of IDF soldiers without any intervention on their part.
Israeli settlers are not always the initiators of attacks, and Human Rights Watch has documented cases of physical attacks on Israeli settlers by Palestinian civilians. On February 20, 2001, for example, a young Palestinian woman from Dura village near Hebron stabbed and lightly wounded a nineteen-year-old Yeshiva student, Hananel Jerafi, in the H2 area of Hebron. Since the outbreak of clashes in late September 2000, Israeli settlers living in downtown Hebron have also regularly come under fire from Palestinian gunmen, an issue documented elsewhere in this report. But in the H2 area of Hebron, as in other Israeli-controlled areas in Hebron district such as the Baqa`a valley, it is clear that the majority of physical attacks are initiated by Israeli settlers, and that the IDF has consistently failed in its obligation to protect Palestinian civilians from attacks by Israeli settlers. In effect, settlers are using the protection provided by the IDF to attack Palestinian civilians. In most cases investigated by Human Rights Watch, the IDF has only intervened to protect the Israeli settlers from counterattack.
Since the beginning of the recent clashes, the H2 area of Hebron has been under a nearly continuous curfew, which requires Palestinians to remain within their homes twenty-four hours per day.184 The curfew does not apply to Israeli settlers, who are allowed to go freely about their daily activities.185 In many instances of settler abuses documented by Human Rights Watch, the settlers used their ability to move around freely during curfew-and the fact that Palestinians were confined to their homes at the time-to carry out attacks on Palestinians and their property.
In early November, settlers used the cover of curfew to paint provocative anti-Islamic slogans on the walls of a mosque in the vegetable market outside the settlement of Avraham Avino. The slogans, which had been painted over but were still readable at the time of a November 6, 2000, visit by Human Rights Watch researchers, read in Hebrew "Muhammad is a pig" and "Muhammad is a manyak [transliterated Arabic slur for homosexual]" and had a Star of David painted underneath.186
The Palestinian market adjacent to the Avraham Avino settlement is one of the most frequent flashpoints in Hebron. It has been the scene of numerous confrontations between Palestinian and settlers, who believe the market was built on "on Jewish property, stolen by Arabs, after the 1929 massacre." During the brief periods when the curfew has been lifted, settlers have often organized protests, some of them violent, at the vegetable market.
On Thursday, November 2, 2000, the IDF announced for the first time in thirty-three days that the curfew would be lifted for more than a few hours. The next morning, when the market re-opened, a group of twenty mostly women settlers arrived and began disrupting the market. In many protests, women settlers are able to be more confrontational without risking an IDF response, because male IDF soldiers are not allowed to come into physical contact with the female settlers. One fifty-five-year-old merchant described the attack: "The [women] settlers ripped down all the clothes [displayed] outside and stepped on them, they took some clothes with them. They were screaming in Arabic, `Close! Close! It is forbidden for you to be open!' It was a Friday. They told us to go home. We closed our shops to protect our goods."187
When a large crowd of Palestinians gathered to confront the settler women, the settlers left the market and the IDF responded by firing concussion grenades into the angry Palestinian crowd. Ahmad Abu Neni, a fifty-five-year-old blind man who supports his family by selling cleaning supplies from a kiosk located directly adjacent to the IDF post at the market's entrance, was first attacked by the settlers and then hit with one of the IDF concussion grenades:
On November 3, between 9 and 10 a.m., I was at the door of my shop, selling cleaning supplies. The settlers attacked me and threw over my shop, took things, and closed it. Then the army fired a sound bomb at me and it set my clothes on fire. I was unconscious when they took me to the hospital. ... They didn't just attack me but the whole area. They were yelling, `Close, close, close the shops.' They physically assaulted me. They pushed me hard into my shop, so I fell down.188
The market was attacked again on December 31, 2000, the day the militant Binyamin Kahane and his wife were killed in a roadside attack.189 The blind Abu Neni was again victimized in the attack, when settlers hit him with a heavy brick in the back as he was attempting to lock up his shop. He had to be carried all the way out of H2 before he could be put in a car and taken to the hospital, as Palestinian cars, including ambulances, are prohibited from entering the H2 area. When his shop was attacked for a third time by settlers on January 31, 2001, all the remaining goods were destroyed. He estimated his loss in the three attacks at 2,000 shekels (U.S. $500), a huge sum for an aging blind man whose only source of income was his small shop.
On March 10, 2001, settlers began attacking Palestinians following the shooting by a Palestinian gunman of Elad Pass, an Israeli settler who was apparently participating in the operation of an illegal roadblock at the time of the shooting (see above). A press release issued by the Christian Peacemaking Team (CPT) described how Israeli settlers attacked the Palestinian vegetable market soon after the shooting:
At around 4:30 p.m., CPT members heard shouting in the street below, and upon investigating, saw about fifty settlers walking and running along Al-Shuhada' Street. As a few members looked on from the street entrance to their apartment, a male settler youth ran past and threw a rock into the market at Palestinians. Soldiers grabbed [the settler] and brought him back to Al-Shuhada' Street. Another male settler assaulted a Palestinian man splashing clear liquid on him, from what appeared to be a vodka bottle. Shop keepers started closing up shops, and curfew was imposed shortly thereafter. CPT members witnessed male settler youth, some of them apparently drunk, hurl stones in the market, and stomp on vegetables as they marched through the largely empty streets.190
Following the settler attack on the Palestinian vegetable market, the IDF surrounded a large part of the Palestinian market with barbed wire and declared it a "closed military zone," effectively giving in to settler demands that the market be shut down.191
On March 11, 2001, Jewish settlers in Hebron organized a march through Hebron to celebrate Purim that ended violently. Activists from the outlawed anti-Arab Kach movement, including many Hebron settler leaders, had originally been granted a permit to celebrate Purim at the grave of Baruch Goldstein, the Kiriat Arba settler who killed twenty-nine Palestinian worshippers at the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron on the eve of Purim in 1994, but senior Israeli police officials intervened at the last moment to cancel the permit and prevented a celebration at the gravesite.192
The IDF imposed a curfew on the Palestinian residents of Hebron during the Purim parade, but some Israeli settlers clearly sought to provoke a confrontation. According to the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz and other news sources, "Among the crowd were children dressed up as Dr. Baruch Goldstein, the doctor who massacred some two dozen Muslim worshippers at the Cave of Patriarchs during Purim in 1994."193 Palestinian youths pelted the rally with stones and rolled burning tires at the parading settlers.194
On March 27, 2001, the day after a Palestinian gunman killed ten-month-old Shalhevet Pass and wounded her father in front of the Avraham Avino settlement (see above), Israeli settlers vented their rage on the Palestinian community. At about 5 a.m. on March 27, 2001, a group of about fifty armed settlers attempted to enter the Palestinian neighborhood of Abu Sheineh from where the Palestinian sniper had fired, but were pushed back by IDF soldiers. Several of the settlers opened fire on the Palestinian neighborhood when the IDF stopped them from proceeding. The IDF ordered the settlers to stop shooting, but the gunmen were not arrested: "I saw two settlers open fire. The soldiers didn't arrest them, but only urged to go back."195 Settlers continued to attempt to enter the Palestinian neighborhoods, and also attacked the Palestinian vegetable market. A member of the Christian Peacemaking Team interviewed by Human Rights Watch gave the following account:
On Tuesday night we woke up to shouts and shooting and saw the light of a fire on Abu Sneihneh. [On Wednesday] we went up and saw seven cars burned and fresh bullet holes. We were told that the bullet holes were fired by settlers at very close range, and that some were fired by the IDF from a distance. ...
Halfway up the hill [to Abu Sneihneh] there is a `Y' in the road where the soldiers and kids usually clash. This is where the soldiers stood and turned the settlers back when they tried to enter Abu Sneihneh. At about 10:15 the settlers came back and ... went through the market and back out through our street. There were only a couple of soldiers with them who yelled at them and tried to hurry them along, but didn't stop them and let them overturn crates and burn tarps, crates, and boxes in front of the shops on our street.
There has been damage to the inner portion of the vegetable market. Those shops have metal doors, but the stands and other equipment that the shopkeepers leave outside was damaged, and hundreds of the plastic bread containers were overturned and some of them were burned. ...
Right now, at 7:26 p.m. on Wednesday, as I look from our roof I can see smoke and flames coming from the market area. ... We could see the flames last night too. We went to look at it last night and were told [first] by the soldiers that the settlers were burning wood and cardboard. We kept asking and finally [the soldier] admitted that the settlers were burning the contents of a carpenter shop.196
Settlers burned at least five Palestinian shops and also torched the offices of the Waqf Islamic authority, tasked with maintaining and administering Islamic holy sites in Hebron.197 On the night of April 1, 2001, Jewish settlers exploded a gas canister inside a Palestinian store in Hebron, destroying three Palestinian stores and lightly wounding six Israeli border policemen walking by the store. Seven other gas canisters readied for similar explosions were discovered nearby.198 Soldiers stationed nearby reportedly saw the settlers attacking the store before the explosion, but did not intervene because "that's police work," as one soldier told an international journalist.199 Hebron IDF commander Noam Tivon blamed the attack on a group of about forty young settlers associated with a Nablus yeshiva, but blamed the Hebron settler leaders for not taking measures to prevent anti-Palestinian violence as he had requested them to do: "Regretfully, [the settler leaders] didn't listen to us and they were lenient with [the abusive settlers]. And the result is what happened here in the last week, which was not good. They break into a shop, loot it and then burn it. Unbelievable things."200 In response to the incident, commander Tivon ordered his soldiers not to accept any food or candy from the settlers, explaining: "The law is toothless here. I have no means to remove the hooligans. So the proper thing to do is to cut off any social contact with the settlers."201
The settlers cut our barbed wire fence and then came over the fencing to take the metal plates [covering the mesh to give privacy to the family], they took seven of them. There is a wall where we put our plants and they come and knock them down [with sticks]. They shout very bad words at us, including religious curses, insults against our prophet in Arabic. ... The soldiers are close by, there are three checkpoints near the house, they are manned twenty-four hours per day. I know the soldiers can hear the settlers when they attack. The soldiers have never stopped the settlers. ...
The situation has gotten worse since the intifada. They attacked [last] Thursday, Friday and Saturday. ... If we could collect the stones the settlers have thrown at us, we would have enough to build a new house.202
The day after the March 26, 2001, killing of Shalhavet Pass (see above), settlers from the Avraham Avino settlement cut through the wire mesh protecting the Sharabati home, climbed into the family's courtyard and set their couch on fire. Settlers also pelted the Sharabati home was with eggs and paint.203
Muhammad al-Alabi, a forty-eight-year-old shopkeeper, lives in a house adjoining the settlement of Beit Haddasah. On November 4, a Saturday, at about 7:45 p.m., his son was doing his ablutions prior to evening prayer when a metal rod came crashing through the kitchen window. His son grabbed the rod and yelled to his father that the settlers were attacking their home. Al-Alabi entered the kitchen and he looked out of the broken window:
I saw three settlers on the roof, there could have been more since I don't think three of them would come alone. One of them was fifteen, the other two in their twenties. After they put the stick in the window, they went down from the wall to the balcony. They started throwing stones with slingshots. One had a water hose and started spraying water.204
IDF soldiers stationed on the building had a clear view of the attack, but did not attempt to stop it, only pointing their guns at the inhabitants of the home to prevent them from retaliating. Muhammad al-Alabi called the IDF command, explained what happened, and was promised that the IDF would protect the home the next time. The next day a group of eleven or twelve young settlers, boys and girls, began throwing stones with slingshots and spraying water again. The IDF soldiers again did not try to stop the attack, but the police did come to the house after the attack and took a complaint.205
On October 3, 2000, when the H2 area of Hebron was in its fifth day of continuous curfew, one-and-one-half-year-old Samar Sharabati was playing on the roof of her home with her sister at about 3 p.m. A group of settlers walking from Beit Haddasah settlement to Tel Rumeida settlement noticed the girls on the roof and began throwing rocks at them. Samar was hit with a rock in her left eye and was bleeding. "We could see the settlers [who had thrown the stones]," her father said, adding that army personnel were stationed on a neighboring roof. "Of course the army saw the settlers throw the rocks."206 The IDF stationed on the roof took no action in response to the incident.
Families living near the Tel Rumeida settlement, a collection of trailers which marks the most recent expansion of settlements in Hebron, have also suffered abuse. In August, prior to the outbreak of hostilities, settlers from Tel Rumeida destroyed some 350 grapevines belonging to Zakariya al-Bakri, whose home adjoins the settlement.207 The settlers continue to encroach on his property, and by the time of a February 2001 visit by Human Rights Watch, the IDF had surrounded the entire home with coils of razor wire, and settlers from Tel Rumeida were walking in the yard. In January, 2001, settlers poisoned three cats and two dogs belonging to the family. When Human Rights Watch visited the home on February 11, 2001, many of the windows were broken, door locks had been jammed, and rocks thrown from the Tel Rumeida settlement were everywhere. The al-Bakri family has virtually moved out of their home because of the constant settler attacks, and are building a new home in the Palestinian-controlled area of the city.
On Friday, October 6, 2000, two settlers from Tel Rumeida settlement approached the home of the Abu `Aisha family, located directly across the street from Tel Rumeida, at around noon. The settlers, young men aged about eighteen, proceeded to rip out the protective mesh covering the aeration holes of the basement water storage tanks, and dumped an unknown white substance into the water. Chemical analysis later determined that the substance was not poisonous, but the pollution had made the water undrinkable. The IDF has a position located directly adjacent to the Abu `Aisha home. Soldiers walked back and forth in the street during the incident, but did not attempt to stop the settlers. When the Abu `Aisha family tried to complain to the soldiers, they were told to go to the police because "We are not here to protect you, we are here to protect the settlers."208
The family contacted monitors from the Temporary International Presence in Hebron and the International Committee of the Red Cross to inform them about the attack, and asked the groups to come and test the contaminated water. When the ICRC car arrived, settlers removed the red cross flag from the vehicle and also damaged the red cross emblem on the door of the car, apparently because they did not want Christian symbols in what they consider to be a Jewish neighborhood. The flag was later recovered by an IDF soldier and returned to the ICRC.209
On October 19, 2000, settlers from Tel Rumeida used large stones to block a walkway leading from the Abu Heikal family home down to the main road in front of the settlement, one of many attempts by the settlers to prevent Palestinians from using roads passing near the settlements. Farial Abu Heikal, the mother of the family and a school principal, contacted the Israeli police station by phone when she noticed the settlers were building the wall, but when she spoke to them in Arabic-an official language of Israel-the police said they didn't speak Arabic and hung up the phone. Her seventeen-year-old daughter found the completed wall when she returned from school, and attempted to climb over. The settlers attacked her by hitting her on the back with an axe handle and throwing water on her. The obstruction of the path and the attack took place within several meters of two IDF positions, but the soldiers did not attempt to intervene. After the attack, the Israeli police came and suggested to the family that they make a complaint at the police station in Kiriat Arba settlement. The family refused, as earlier complaints were never acted upon. The family asked that the police take a complaint on the spot, but the police refused to do so.210 The wall blocking the path remains in place.
In addition to physical attacks and abuse, settlers make life onerous for Palestinians in other, often demeaning, ways. At the behest of the Beit Haddassah settlers, the IDF prevents Palestinians from walking on the main road in front of the Beit Haddassah settlement. Instead, Palestinians are forced to take a steep and hazardous path to get around the settlement. On February 12, 2001, Human Rights Watch researchers observed IDF soldiers refusing to allow a thirty-five-year-old woman, who was recovering from recent operations, from walking in front of Beit Haddassah. The frail and sickly woman was forced to navigate two steep flights of steps and a rocky dirt path to avoid passing in front of the settlement. When asked about the prohibition, the soldiers gave Human Rights Watch different justifications: one soldier replied that the prohibition was essential to protect the settlers from attacks by Palestinians, while another suggested that the prohibition was in place because the settlers would attack any Palestinian walking in front of the settlement.
On December 8, 2000, vandals destroyed more than one thousand phone connections in a switchbox located across the street from the Avraham Avino settlement, cutting the phone access of most of the Palestinian population inside the Israeli-controlled H2 area. Settlers were believed to have been responsible for the vandalism, as the attack took place during the curfew period when Palestinians are not allowed to go outdoors. IDF soldiers were stationed only 30 or 40 meters away from the switchbox. Palestinian repairmen were not allowed to enter the H2 area during the curfew and had to carry out the extensive repairs during the short periods when curfew was lifted, so most Palestinian families did not get their phone service restored until early January, 2001.211
One of the Palestinian areas suffering most from attacks by Israeli settlers is the Baqa`a valley, an agricultural area populated mainly by members of the Jaber clan. The Baqa`a valley adjoins Route 60, the main settler bypass road, and abuts the large Givat Harsina settlement, part of which has been built on land confiscated from the extended Jaber clan. The Givat Harsina settlement continues to expand on land immediately abutting the Baqa`a valley, most recently through the construction of a new exit road to the main bypass road on the land of `Abd al-Jawad Jaber and the ongoing construction of an additional 144 housing units.212 The settlers consider the continued presence of Palestinians in the area to be a security threat, and regularly stage large and often violent protests in the valley in response to attacks against Israelis (including attacks carried out far away from Hebron, in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem). The settler attacks in the Baqa`a valley have increased in seriousness, suggesting that the lack of an effective IDF response has emboldened settlers to become more threatening and abusive toward the Palestinian population
Several of the attacks have focused on the home of `Atta Jaber, whose two previous homes were demolished by the IDF in March 1997 and September 1998 because they were constructed without the necessary permit. `Atta Jaber began construction of a third home in April 2000, and has faced regular attacks by Israeli settlers since, because they consider the land on which he is building as "confiscated" by the settlement.
On November 2, 2000, following a car bomb explosion in Jerusalem, a large group of settlers gathered in the Baqa`a valley at about 5 p.m. When `Atta Jaber saw the settlers moving towards the homes in the valley, and the IDF not stopping them, he decided to flee from his home with his family: "I was scared, because it was a huge numbers of settlers and I don't have anything to defend myself with."213 The settlers focused their attack on the home of sixty-three-year-old Na`im Jaber, located immediately adjacent the Route 60 bypass road. Na`im Jaber related what happened that night:
I was coming home as usual [at 5 p.m.] and was surprised by a large numbers of settlers. Of course, we knew about the [bomb] attack in Jerusalem, so when I saw them I expected them to attack the house. The settlers were men, women and children. I locked the house and they started throwing stones. Seven children were in the house ... they started to scream. I calmed them down and prevented a confrontation from happening.
The police and the IDF were here, even when they were attacking the house. They announced something on the microphone, I didn't understand. ... We were very careful that no one in the house provoked an attack on the house. The whole street was filled with settlers, at least 100. From 5 to 7:30 p.m. the confrontation lasted.214
The IDF did not intervene to stop the stone-throwing by the settlers, only intervening to push back the settlers when they tried to leave the bypass road and approach the home.
On November 21, a more serious attack took place in the Baqa`a Valley. Rich Meyer, a volunteer with the pacifist Christian Peacemaker Team in Hebron, was present in the valley as a large group of settlers gathered and began blocking the road and attacking Palestinian drivers (an incident described in detail below). As night began to fall, the settlers turned their attention to the Palestinian fields and homes in the area:
After dark, at about 8 p.m., a group of settlers ran into the turnip field of Jabrin Jaber. They tore up the irrigation equipment and broke off the sprinkler heads. I could hear their rocks hitting the metal shutters of the house [belonging to Na`im Jaber] ...
The settlers pulled the [plastic] irrigation pipe out of the field and added it to the fire of the burning tire [in the street.] The military jeep came up beside the settlers, shone a spotlight on them in the field, and said something to them in Hebrew. Then a group of twenty settlers ran up onto the stone wall above `Abd al-Jawad [Jaber]'s house, and started throwing stones at the house. Again, the military shone spotlights on them and spoke in Hebrew. As they turned on the spotlight, I could see a group of settlers in `Abd al-Jawad's field pulling up irrigation pipes. ...
[Every] few minutes, the settlers would run away and start attacking somewhere else, and the soldiers would follow them there and repeat the same procedure.215
During the incident, Rich Meyer repeatedly called the Israeli police to inform them about the settler attack and was told that "they were taking care of it." The settlers went home on their own initiative beginning around 11 p.m., after attacking Palestinian cars, homes and property for more than four hours with minimal reaction from the IDF. Rich Meyer, himself a farmer, estimated that each farmer who had been attacked lost around 4000 to 5000 shekels (U.S. $1,000 to 1,250) in destroyed sprinkler heads and irrigation equipment, with some additional minor damage to the young crop.
Israeli settlers again attacked the Baqa`a valley on December 8, 2000, following the killing of two Israeli settlers in a roadside attack near Kiriat Arba the same day (see above). The settler attack was the most serious then to have occured, resulted in the temporary occupation and damaging of the home of `Atta Jaber, the shooting of a thirteen-year-old Palestinian boy, and attacks on Palestinian homes within the valley over a period of two days. Although IDF and police forces were present throughout the incident, they did little to prevent the settlers from continuously attacking Palestinians in the neighborhood.
`Atta Jaber was at home with his wife and two small children on December 8, 2000, when, at about 10 a.m., hundreds of settlers began to gather on the main road outside Givat Harsina. The settlers began throwing stones at the house of `Atta's father, `Abd al-Jawad Jaber, located on the opposite side of the road, before marching on `Atta's house.216 Seeing the large group of settlers advance on his home, `Atta decided to flee and took his wife and children to their relatives. When he left, there were already IDF and police jeeps in the area, but they did not intervene to stop the attacks.217 Hatim al-Salaimi related to Human Rights Watch what he witnessed at the time:
We were working on our land. The settlers gathered in the road in big numbers. All of a sudden, they rushed up to `Atta's house, but no one was there as `Atta had escaped. They gathered more and more. A group occupied `Atta's home, and others began to attack the land and the homes. ... They came from the street throwing rocks, they were shouting and had their guns.218
After the settlers occupied `Atta Jaber's home, they continued attacking homes in the neighborhood, including the homes of Yusif Jaber, aged sixty-five, and Taha al-Salaimi, aged sixty-five. Yusif Jaber recalled: "Some 200 to 300 settlers came to the area, they were armed. The settlers were shooting in the air. They were cursing us, spitting at us, saying bad words. ... They didn't reach my house, but two of my sons were hit by stones."219 The nearby house of Taha al-Salaimi also came under attack. Taha and his sons initially tried to repel the settler attack, but were told by IDF soldiers that it would be safer to go into their home. Hatim al-Salaimi explained how his six-year-old son Mohammed was then injured:
My father, my wife, children and brothers locked ourselves into the house. The settlers got closer and started throwing big stones at the windows. We have metal shutters on our windows, but because of the force of the stones, the shutters were opened and the windows broke. My six-year-old son was lying by the window and was hit by a stone in the chin, he was bleeding. ... When I saw my son bleeding, I started shouting and wanted to open the door, but my parents stopped me.
We stayed inside for twenty minutes more. The soldiers were with the settlers when they attacked, but the number of settlers was so great that the soldiers couldn't do anything. The soldiers tried to stop me from going to the hospital, we argued for about half an hour. ...
Five windows were broken. All the pots with plants were overturned. I had planted turnips and they uprooted one dunnum (one quarter acre) of turnips, as much as they could.220
Hatim's son Muhammad was taken to the hospital and received four stitches to close the cut in his lower lip. According to Taha al-Salaimi, the settlers attacked homes from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., only stopping when the IDF fired several shots in the air. They then returned to `Atta's home: "They set fire to `Atta's home and started damaging things, but no one dared to go there."221
When `Atta returned with observers from the Christian Peacemaking Team at about 5 p.m., he found that a large group of settlers had occupied his home, moving out all the furniture, bringing up an electric generator and other supplies, and flying a large Israeli flag from the roof. There was a significant police and IDF presence at the scene. `Atta Jaber was told that the IDF had given permission to the settlers to conduct a prayer service in his home, and that the IDF would not force out the settlers before the end of Jewish Sabbath, more than twenty-four hours later: "The soldiers did not force the settlers out so as not to harm their feelings, because it was Friday and Saturday, and because of the killing of the settlers. The commander said he could not force the settlers out before the end of Sabbath."222 The settlers spent the night at the house, conducting a prayer service.
The next morning, December 9, 2000, many settlers came to `Atta Jaber's home to participate in morning praying services. At about 9:30 a.m., settlers began streaming out of the house of `Atta Jaber and began attacking the neighboring homes:
At 9:30 a.m., a group of about sixty settlers attacked the houses down below. They started throwing stones at the house, but the Palestinians living there forced them back [with stones.] They gathered again in a bigger number and attacked again in a different direction.223
When the settlers began attacking the neighboring homes, a large group of Palestinians gathered to attempt to repulse the settlers by throwing rocks back at them. Suddenly, one of the settlers, later identified as Yehoshua Shani, shot at the Palestinian crowd, wounding thirteen-year-old Mansur Jaber. According to Hatim al-Salaimi: "I was about three meters away from Mansur when he was shot. The shebab [youth] were throwing stones but Mansur had just gotten there and wasn't throwing stones. Mansur had just come to watch, coming from his house, when he was shot by a settler shooting from near Ahmad's house. There was an army jeep next to Ahmad's house but they didn't get out. The settlers were around them [the jeep] and they didn't do anything. The settler who shot was near them and I am sure they saw him shoot."224
The wounded Mansur, hit by a bullet which injured his hand before entering his abdomen, was quickly carried away from the scene. His relatives put him in a car and approached the road, but were stopped by a group of IDF and settlers. According to Taha al-Salaimi, who helped in the evacuation, "Two settlers were standing near the [IDF] jeep, one with an automatic weapon. The other had a big stone and wanted to throw it. The one aimed his gun and said in Arabic, `Go away or I will shoot.'" Unable to pass through to the main road, they were forced to retreat and attempt to evacuate Mansur by another road. As they reached the main road, an IDF jeep drove up and offered medical assistance, and ultimately Mansur was evacuated in an Israeli ambulance. Meanwhile, "the settlers continued attacking the houses."225
After the shooting, the IDF did ask four Palestinian witnesses to the shooting to go to Kiriat Arba police station to give a statement about the incident. The four men spent several hours at the police station giving statements and looking at photographs of settlers, and were treated in a professional and friendly manner. The settler who shot Mansur, Yehoshua Shani, later turned himself in and was charged with aggravated assault.
The trouble was not yet over for `Atta Jaber. In the afternoon of December 9, 2000, four lawyers from the Israeli Coalition against Home Demolitions managed to get a court order requiring the army to evict the settlers from the home. It took the IDF from 6 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. to remove the settlers. By the time the settlers had been removed from the home, they had done serious damage to the structure, burning all of the family's clothes and belongings in the basement, punching holes in the walls, and taking some of the building materials.226 `Atta returned the next morning to put out the still-smoldering fire in his home.
When he arrived at his home on the morning of December 10, 2000, `Atta Jaber was handed a military order declaring his home a closed military zone for the next three months, barring him from returning to his own home. When he attempted to approach the home with members of the Christian Peacemaking Team to photograph and document the damage to the house, the soldiers pointed their guns at them and told them to leave. It took `Atta Jaber a month, until January 11, to get a court order ordering the IDF to evacuate the home. By then, the soldiers had caused further damage to the house by burning a fire inside the home to keep warm and by writing graffiti on the walls. The soldiers also built a circular military road immediately behind `Atta Jaber's house, further diminishing the amount of land he can cultivate.227
During the month-long IDF occupation of the house of `Atta Jaber, settlers were allowed on at least one other occasion to enter the home. On December 28, 2000, the IDF granted a request by the settlers to conduct a one-hour Hanukkah prayer service at the home. The prayer service proceeded without incident, and the settlers dispersed in the evening, but soon thereafter a group of settlers stoned the home of `Abd al-Jawad Jaber.228
Pierre Shantz, a volunteer with the Christian Peacemaking Team in Hebron, heard about the renewed settler presence at the home of `Atta Jaber and decided to go stay at the house of `Abd al-Jawad Jaber to observe events. At about 5 or 6 p.m. on December 28, 2000, the house suddenly came under attack from settlers standing on the main entrance road just above the house. The road was recently constructed on land confiscated from the family. "All of a sudden, rocks started hitting the cement. Everyone ran into the house, closed the doors, and went into the main room with no windows."229 Shantz called the police, who shone a spotlight on the house, prompting the settlers to leave. The police came over to inspect the home, and suggested that `Abd al-Jawad come to the police station the next day to make a complaint. `Abd al-Jawad objected, recalling that last time he had gone to make a complaint at the police station, located inside the Kiriat Arba settlement, he was made to wait two hours at the settlement's fence and then told to go away. After some arguing, the police finally agreed to take a complaint at the scene, but even then questioned the account of the witnesses, arguing that since the witnesses were not able to see the attackers (who were hidden by the high security wall), they could have been under attack from Palestinians-a ludicrous suggestion since no Palestinians would have been allowed on the settlement's security road by the angry settlers.
The settlements of Kiriat Arba and Givat Harsina, home to some 7,000 Israeli settlers, are located on the eastern hills overlooking the city of Hebron, in close proximity to Palestinian communities. Relations between Kiriat Arba and the Palestinian community of Jabal Johar have been particularly tense, with frequent stoning and physical attacks by the settlers on their Palestinian neighbors. As in the H2 area of Hebron, many of the Palestinians believe that the settler attacks are aimed at making life unbearable for them, forcing them to leave their homes, and allowing the settlement to expand.
Taisir Abu Shakhdam, aged forty-five, lives with his ten children and three grandchildren in a rented house near the fence with Kiriat Arba. The family showed Human Rights Watch the stones and heavy metal objects thrown at them by settlers, which littered their yard. Taisir explained: "Almost every day, we are attacked by the settlers, but it is the worst on Saturdays. They throw stones and metal objects. ... The settlers, usually about five or ten, come and stand near the house. They throw stones at the house and anyone who walks around."230 On February 3, 2001, a Saturday, about fifteen settlers attacked his home, throwing stones and metal bars at the home and the car of his son. Taisir tried to move the car and was then knocked unconscious by a stone:
We were about to have lunch inside, and then my daughter-in-law came and said the settlers were attacking the car. We all rushed outside and jumped down a wall, we couldn't follow the road [down] because of the stones. I reached the car, the settlers were still throwing stones. ... The body of the car was damaged, the shade for the windshield, a side mirror and the light was [broken]. ... That day, the stone throwing was especially heavy. I was hit with a heavy rock in the head and fell to the ground unconscious.231
The stone throwing continued for nearly two hours, and the Palestinians responded by throwing stones back at the settlers. Taisir showed Human Rights Watch the medical certificate he had received at the hospital that day, following treatment for the cut on his head, and still had a visible scar on his head from the incident.
Fifty-seven-year-old Amni al-Bakri and her husband have actually lived inside the Kiriat Arba settlement fence since 1972, when the settlement was established. On Saturdays, the Jewish Sabbath, they often come under attack from stone throwing settlers, particularly if they attempt to engage in any type of work on that day. Such attacks have intensified since the beginning of the clashes, and in October 2000 the frail couple were finally forced to abandon their life-long home after an especially severe attack.
On Saturday, October 14, 2000, at about 10:30 a.m., Amni went to her garden to pick some grapes for herself and her husband. As she was returning to her house, four young male settlers ran up to her and began attacking her: "They pushed me down, they knocked me down. Then one stepped down hard on my hand, intentionally. ... The boys only spoke to us in filthy words, they told us that it was prohibited for Arabs to live there."232 Her husband heard the noise from the attack and ran out, but was pushed over by the settler boys, spraining his ankle.233 His wife's wrist was broken during the attack. The boys finally ran away when they heard a security guard from the settlement approaching. The couple have locked up their home and moved in with relatives. When asked if they complained to the police about the attack, the wife replied that she had gone on numerous occasions to the police, with no result.
In addition to the six settlements located inside or in the immediate environs of Hebron city, there are dozens of other settlements located around the district of Hebron, often in close proximity to Palestinian villages. The population and political outlook of these settlements varies significantly, from large "bedroom communities" whose residents chose to live in the Occupied Territories because of the lower and often subsidized housing costs and substantial tax benefits, to small and isolated communities that are often vehemently anti-Palestinian in their rhetoric and actions and aim to expand Israeli settlement in the district. While some Palestinian communities and neighboring settlements maintain relatively peaceful relationships, serious frictions continue to exist between most settlements and nearby Palestinian communities.
The tensions between Palestinian farmers and the settlements are not new to the current crisis, and shooting directed at Palestinian farmers by settlers occurred regularly prior to the current wave of violence. But there is little doubt that such shooting incidents are on the increase, and that settlers in a number of settlements have increasingly and systematically deprived Palestinian farmers from access to their land since the beginning of the current crisis, often with the apparent assent of the IDF. Because of the strict internal closure in Hebron district, Human Rights Watch researchers could not visit all of the villages in Hebron district, but the cases documented below indicate the pattern of abuse.
In the village of Bani Na`im, located east of Hebron, settlers from the Pnei Hever settlement have shot at or beaten numerous farmers attempting to reach their olive groves near the settlement.
On October 27, 2000, forty-six-year-old Farid Balout went to his olive grove with his wife and four children, aged between one and sixteen, to prune their trees. Their olive trees are not located close to Pnei Hever settlement, but they have to pass close by the settlement when traveling to and from their grove. As they were heading home past the settlement at about 5 p.m., shots rang out from settlers and IDF soldiers stationed some 300 meters away. Farid was hit in his left arm, which was hanging outside the window on the passenger side of the car. His wife drove the family home and called an ambulance to get Farid to the hospital. The ambulance had to travel on rough, unpaved roads because of the road closures and clashes on the main road into Hebron; when it arrived at the hospital, the bullet was surgically removed.234 Farid was unable to harvest his olives because of the shooting attacks, losing about 7,000 shekels (U.S. $1,750) in income.
Two weeks later, at about 3: 30 p.m. on November 12, Farid's thirty-five-year-old brother, Mazen Balout, was driving on same road when his car stalled on a steep incline because of overheating. When he got out of the car to add water to the radiator, a shot rang out from the settlement and hit him in the leg, severing an artery and causing severe bleeding. A passing Palestinian car brought Mazen to Bani Na`im. The ambulance that took him to the hospital from Bani Na`im also faced significant difficulties in getting to Hebron because of the closures.235
Khalid Tairera, aged twenty-nine, was returning from pruning his olive trees together with five students when settlers and IDF soldiers stopped him on the road near Pnei Hever. The group of eight armed settlers (five men, two women, and a boy) began cursing Khalid and his colleagues and ordered them to get out of the car. Khalid, afraid for the safety of the students, got out of the car and an argument ensued. The IDF soldiers intervened on behalf of the armed settlers:
When the settlers would attack the car, I would push them back. Whenever I defended myself from the settlers, the soldiers would shoot in the air. The soldiers were only a meter away, they were four. They shot in the air twice. One of the settlers pushed me, and I punched him in the chest. The other settlers and the soldiers then attacked me all at the same time, they were using the back of their rifles and slapping me, calling me a dog, son of sin, [saying] `Go away from here, this is our land, go to Jordan, this is our country,' all in Hebrew.236
Khalid finally managed to get back in his car, but the settlers kept banging on the car and refused to let him leave. One of the soldiers ordered Khalid to get back out of the car, and Khalid replied that if the soldier wanted him to get out of the car, he should first get the settlers to go away from the car. The soldier insisted that Khalid get out of the car, stating "I give orders, not you, so do as I say." Khalid explained what happened when he complied:
The soldier opened the door and asked me to get out. The settler [whom I had fought with] was behind me. As I got out, the settler hit me on my forehead with his rifle. I was injured and bleeding. Then the soldier told me to get back in the car and leave the area. ... The soldiers then threatened me, saying that if I did not leave the area, they would shoot me and the students.237
Khalid needed several stitches to close the wound on his forehead. A small crack in his skull was still healing when Human Rights Watch interviewed him in February 2001.
Muhammed Munasra, a fifty-one-year-old farmer, owns land immediately adjacent to Pnei Hever settlement; in fact, some twenty of out of his fifty dunums were confiscated for the construction of the settlement and are now located inside the settlement's fence. When Muhammed and his children attempted to harvest their olives on the land outside the settlement in October, 2000, they were attacked by settlers on the second day of the harvest:
It was me and my children, twelve of us. About ten settlers came at 8 a.m. in the morning. [The soldiers] were inside their observation points. The settlers said, `Go from here, you Arab, you son of a dog.' They fired six or seven shots to scare us, up in the air. ... The soldiers stayed in their [observation] points the whole time. ... I tried to go back, but the soldiers stopped me, they blocked the road with dirt. I tried to climb over the earth several times, but the soldiers stopped me.238
The olive grove is the main source of income for the family, bringing in about 18,000 shekels (U.S. $ 4,500) in a normal year. The entire crop was lost because of the settler attacks. In addition, the family believes that settlers poisoned a water cistern on the land. The Palestinian municipality is conducting an investigation into the deaths of the five goats, who died minutes after drinking water from the cistern in early February 2001.
Palestinian farmers in other villages visited by Human Rights Watch faced similar problems. In November 2000, Muhammad Mufleh, a sixty-six-year-old farmer from Safi, went to clear some old trees on his land near the settlement of Bat Ayin (also known as Tzoref) with a bulldozer, together with his son and the bulldozer driver. Suddenly, about ten shots rang out from the settlement, forcing the three to seek shelter behind the bulldozer for an hour before fleeing the area. Mufleh had not returned to his land since the attack.239 On November 1, settlers from Ma'on settlement near Yatta set fire to the grain store of Khalid al-Umur, burning 150 tons of hay and thirty tons of seed and causing the death of some goats.240
Israeli settlers have also frequently set up their own road blocks to prevent Palestinian traffic, often in response to Palestinian attacks against Israeli settlers. In addition, settlers have stoned and shot at Palestinian cars. The role of the Israeli authorities in settler attacks against Palestinian drivers is deeply disturbing, and it appears that the authorities are often complicit in settler abuse. When Israeli settlers decide to close roads to Palestinian traffic, Israeli authorities rarely interfere to stop their actions, and at times even operate checkpoints jointly with abusive settlers. When Palestinian drivers who have been stoned or shot at complain to nearby Israeli authorities about such abuses, the authorities rarely take an interest. The apparent willingness of Israeli authorities to allow settlers to take the law into their own hands is particularly disturbing in light of the settlers' well-known antipathy to, and frequently abusive behavior toward, "Arabs."
On November 20, Rich Meyer, a forty-three-year-old volunteer with the Christian Peacemakers Team, received a call from a contact in the Baqa`a Valley, located east of Hebron, opposite the settlements of Kiriat Arba and Givat Harsina, telling him that a large group of settlers had gathered on Route 60 and were stopping Palestinian traffic. It was too late to go out to the Baqa`a Valley that night, but Meyer decided to spend the next day there and observe what happened. His detailed testimony to Human Rights Watch provides a compelling illustration of the failure of the Israeli authorities to respond adequately to settler abuses:
At late afternoon, a settler vehicle parked at the junction to Givat Harsina [settlement.] A few settlers got out an stood around in a group. An IDF jeep arrived about a half hour later. As dusk approached, more settler vehicles parked at the gas station. Most of the settlers arrived by foot from Givat Harsina. ...
Several more jeeps of soldiers and one police jeep parked on Route 60. By 7 p.m., the settlers had set fire to a large tire on the road. By dark, there were some sixty settlers, and by 7 p.m., there were 150 to 200 settlers.
All through the evening, from dark to 10 p.m., small groups of about thirty settlers would break off and run up or down the road or into the fields. When a car approached from the north, a group of settlers would run to the north. If it was an Israeli car, they would let it pass. A Palestinian driver would turn around as fast as possible. I saw two Palestinian cars that were hit by rocks thrown by the settlers, one coming from the north and one coming from the south.
In each case, an army or police jeep would chase after the settlers, but never in time to prevent the damage. In the morning, I picked up windshield glass from where a Palestinian car in the south was too slow to turn around, I still have that glass. ...
After the first two cars were attacked, the soldiers set up road blocks farther to the north and south, with their jeeps, to stop Palestinian cars from going through. Israeli cars continued to be allowed through the roadblock. ... The mood of the settlers was festive, they were singing around the tire ... it was like a party to them.241
Mohammed al-S., a thirty-five-year-old taxi driver from Yatta, was the victim of a similar incident at the same location on December 9. Settlers were again blocking the road and attacking Palestinian homes in the Baqa`a valley when Mohammed S. drove by with seven passengers sometime between 10 a.m. and noontime.242 "When the settlers saw me, they started throwing stones. I quickly turned the car and wanted to escape. At that time a military jeep came and blocked the road. A soldier came out of the jeep and started beating the car with his rifle."
In an article protesting her arrest for setting up a roadblock barring Palestinian travel on February 13, 2001, Nadia Matar, a leader of the pro-settler Women in Green organization, explained that the day before her arrest, Israeli police had cooperated with settler efforts to block the same main road:
After the recent murders, the Yehuda Vaad Peulah [Judea Action Committee] has decided to take action and stop Arab cars (with PA license plates) driving on our roads. The message is clear: it is inconceivable that the enemy drives on our roads while we are, every day, being shot at, stoned, wounded and murdered.
[On February 12], the moment we went to the road with one or two flags, the police immediately took over and worked together with us, putting road blocks at the Gush intersection and close to Neve Daniel [settlement]; thus clearing the road for us. All we had to do was to stand on the road and check that Palestinian cars would not trick us and anyway to come through. If that would happen, we would stand in front of the car and, with the help of the police, tell the Arab to turn around and go back where he came from. The police also made it clear that if we would leave, they would leave and let Arab traffic go by again.243
It is clear from Nadia Matar's narrative of events that the police agreed on February 12, 2001, to ban Palestinian travel on the road at the initiative of the settlers, and allowed the settlers to participate in enforcing the impromptu ban on Palestinian road travel. The next day, however, the police arrested Nadia Matar and detained her for two hours after she attempted to stop a Palestinian car from passing through the settler's blockade.244
Hebron settlers have also attacked representatives of the diplomatic community. On December 12, 2000, a group of Hebron settlers and IDF soldiers at the Halhul junction blocked the car of British Consul General Robin Kealy, who was returning from inspecting British-sponsored projects inside Palestinian areas of Hebron. According to the written statement provided to Human Rights Watch by the Consul General:
The incident took place at a temporary checkpoint just north of Halhul. [The checkpoint] consisted of a settlers' bus and an IDF jeep, which between them nearly blocked the road, allowing, however, passage for one vehicle at a time. The checkpoint was manned by a combination of a group of IDF (perhaps six) and about ten armed and agitated settlers.
My driver explained to the IDF that we were diplomats and wished to return to Jerusalem (speaking via the external intercom of my armoured Range Rover) but the IDF initially refused to let us pass. While this was going on the settlers became more agitated, shouting and slapping the side of the car. Eventually, one woman settler, who had a rock about the size of a loaf of bread in her hand, went round to the back of the car and smashed it against the rear window. Fortunately, as the car was armoured, the rock bounced off, but left a small scratch on the glass. Then eventually the IDF let us through.245
Following the British ambassador's demand for an explanation and an apology, the Israeli Foreign Ministry expressed regret over the incident, although it claimed that the IDF had done its best to restrain the settlers. The British Consul General remained concerned "that the IDF appear to allow settlers either to be present at IDF checkpoints (and do not seem to be restraining them effectively) or to man completely independent checkpoints of their own."246
In addition to setting up abusive roadblocks and preventing Palestinian drivers from driving on "their" roads, Israeli settlers have also stoned and shot at Palestinian drivers. Some of these attacks have taken place as Palestinian drivers drove close to settlements in an attempt to reach their olive groves or fields (discussed above in this report). When Palestinian drivers who have been attacked by Israeli settlers complain to the Israeli authorities, their complaints are rarely acted upon.
On Monday, October 30, 2000, attorney Muhammad Shahin was driving from his office in Hebron to his home village of al-Dahariyya, located South of Hebron. At about 2:30 p.m., he was driving at about 90 kilometers per hour on the main bypass road near the junction to Otni'el settlement when he saw an Israeli car approach:
Coming towards me was an Israeli car, with [yellow] Israeli license plates. As it came closer, I saw the driver picking up something. When they came exactly next to me, he threw this thing at me. I heard an explosion on my car as fragments of glass flew unto my face and hands. ... The car shook from side to side, so I stopped. I saw that my wounds were superficial on my face and hands. The stone hit on the seat next to me and bounced on my side. I dusted off my face and cleaned the glass from my face. I looked out the window and could still see the settlers moving away.247
Muhammed Shahin, who later saw the car and its occupants again from a close distance (see below), identified the car driven by the settlers as a red Volkswagen Caravel Transporter,248 and noted that "the driver was blond, [aged] between eighteen and twenty, without a beard, with a red face and green eyes. He had earlocks, with a yamuka [skullcap]. The one next to him was about twenty-five [years old], taller than the driver and [wearing] glasses, with a light beard and a yamuka."249 He decided to follow the car:
I turned around and followed him. When he saw me [following him], he passed all the cars and quickly moved away. I continued following him, but there were cars between us. I got to the checkpoint at al-Fawwar camp, and told the army what happened to me. The army called on its radio to the [farther] checkpoint, describing the red car coming in their direction. ... He took an affidavit from me. One of the soldiers who was standing near the checkpoint told me that he had seen the red car moving quickly through the checkpoint.250
After taking down the details of the attack and contacting nearby IDF checkpoints on the radio to be on alert for the red Volkswagen, the IDF officer instructed Shahin to go make a formal complaint to the District Coordination Office (DCO) located in the settlement of Beit Haggai. Prior to the outbreak of hostilities, the DCO consisted of Israeli and Palestinian officials who coordinated security for the district of Hebron, but the security cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians had been suspended due to the ongoing unrest. Shahin identified the car responsible for the attack at the Beit Haggai settlement, but was denied the opportunity to make a complaint:
The officer told me to go to the DCO to make a complaint, which I did. When I got there, there was only Israeli army, no Palestinian soldiers. There I saw the two in the car who had hit me, their car was also there. I spoke to the soldier [guarding the entrance to the settlement] and said that those two had hit my car with a stone and I wanted to make a complaint. He said the Palestinian-Israeli DCO had `died' and then said `You have to go from here or I will kill you. We Israelis had three killed today in Jerusalem, and what happened to you is not important. You have to go from here immediately or I will shoot you.'251
Shahin was forced to leave without making a formal complaint. The next day, he went to the Israeli police station located in the settlement of Kiriat Arba and made a complaint, but the opportunity to identify the two attackers, who had been present at Beit Haggai, was lost. He was shown an album with photos of settlers, but his attackers were not among them.
On October 20, 2000, twenty-eight-year-old `Ali Abu `Awad was driving his car from Beit Umar to Hebron at about 1 p.m. when he was forced to pull over near Halhul because of car trouble. As he got out of the car to check on the tires, a white Subaru stationwagon with tinted windows and yellow Israeli plates drove by. A shot rang out from the car and hit `Ali Abu `Awad in the knee. Abu `Awad is sure that the car was driven by Israeli settlers, as it had yellow plates, Hebrew bumber stickers, and an Israeli flag decal on the back. At the hospital, Abu `Awad was told by hospital workers that the same car had been involved in two other drive-by shooting incidents aimed at Palestinians.252
On October 12, 2000, the same day that two reserve soldiers were brutally killed by a Palestinian crowd at a police station in Ramallah,253 Omar al-Z., aged thirty, was driving his taxi on the bypass road leading from Bani Na `im to Hebron at about 7 p.m. He noticed a white car with three settlers parked by the road, signaling for him to stop. Having heard about the Ramallah events, Omar al-Z. decided it would be too dangerous to stop, and continued driving. "I was driving past them, and saw that one of them had a pistol and shot at me. The first shot hit the front [hood] of the car, another hit the front right door. A second settler kneeled down and started shooting at the tires. I was swerving on the road to avoid [the shots]. They followed me, but I was able to drive very fast [and escape]."254
Omar al-Z. drove towards Halhul and attempted to drive his car over a high earthen mound put on the road by IDF soldiers to block traffic, but got stuck on the mound. Seeing that the settlers were still following him, he began shouting for help and a big Palestinian crowd gathered, scaring off the settlers. As Omar al-Z. was waiting for a tow-truck to pull his car from the mound, an IDF jeep pulled up and asked what was happening, demanding the driver's keys. Omar al-Z. explained that he had been shot at by settlers, but the soldiers refused to take his complaint, accusing him of being drunk and telling him that he must have been shot at by Palestinian gunmen. When Omar al-Z. explained that he had seen the settlers shooting at his car, the soldier again asked him for his keys and reiterated that Palestinian gunmen were responsible for the attack. Omar al-Z. handed over his keys, which were found discarded by the road two weeks later. The soldiers made no attempt to investigate the shooting: "They just wrote my name and ID, they didn't ask for details such as the color and the make of the car which shot at me. When I tried to approach the soldiers with information, a soldier yelled at me and told me to go away."255 The repairs to the car cost Omar el-Z. 1,100 shekels (U.S. $275).
In early October, 2000,0 `Issa J., aged thirty-eight, was driving his taxi on the main bypass road near the settlement of Ma'ale Adummim, located east of Jerusalem, when a settler approached from his rear in a Volkswagen and signaled to allow him to pass. He complied, and as the car began passing him, the driver pointed a pistol out of the window and shot at `Issa J.'s car, hitting the rear of the car. `Issa J. quickly pulled over, and the settler car sped away. `Issa J. did not report the incident to the Israeli authorities, because he felt, "It is useless."1
At about 1:20 p.m. on January 27, 2001, Muhammed J., aged forty-six, was driving his taxi with three female passengers past the Kiriat Arba settlement on a road in the Jabal Johar area of Hebron when two teenage settlers started throwing stones. "The settlers threw stones at us as we were passing Kiriat Arba," he related, "They were hiding under the trees. The stones broke my windshield." Muhammed J. stopped near IDF soldiers posted about 100 meters away, and told them what had happened. "The soldiers yelled at the settlers and told them to go away ... They didn't try to arrest the settlers, they didn't even move. It cost me 2000 shekels (U.S. $ 500) to replace the window, I need to work forty days to make this money."2
On February 21, `Abd al-Mughni Abu T., a thirty-five-year-old taxi driver, was driving past the Kiriat Arba settlement on a road in the Jabal Johar area of Hebron when he noticed a white GMC van with settler occupants rapidly approaching him. The GMC van was driving in the middle of the road, and `Abd al-Mughni Abu T. had to drive off the road to avoid a collision. As the GMC van passed, the settlers turned on a loudspeaker and began cursing Abd al-Mughni Abu T., calling him a son of a whore and a son of a bitch in Arabic.3
There is a significant international presence in Hebron, including humanitarian workers, independent observers, and journalists. Attacks by Israeli settlers against such persons have been common. Most such attacks appear to occur when settlers see such persons engaging in activities which they perceive as hostile to their interests, such as monitoring settler and army abuses, or are unprovoked attacks linked to unrelated events, such as suicide bombings in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. On the other hand, Human Rights Watch researchers who arranged through settler representatives to visit the settlements of Avraham Avino, Beit Haddasah, and Tel Rumeida on November 8, 2000 were well received and were allowed to investigate abuses committed against the settlers.
Among the international organizations with a permanent presence in Hebron are the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH)4 and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). TIPH does not publicly report on settler attacks, but settlers living inside Hebron are openly hostile to TIPH. In a recent interview, the Hebron settler spokesperson David Wilder said that TIPH "don't have anything to do with us except to watch us. They infringe on Israeli sovereignty, they make a complicated situation more difficult and they hinder the security forces from doing their job."5 In one documented case, a TIPH car driving past the Beit Hadassah settlement on January 10, 2001, was set upon by a group of settlers who began beating the TIPH vehicle. The rear window of the TIPH vehicle was shattered.6
On October 6, 2000, settlers from the Tel Rumeida settlement attacked an ICRC vehicle, ripping off its red cross flag and damaging the red cross decals on the doors of the car, apparently because they were offended by the presence of what they perceived as Christian symbols in what they consider a Jewish neighborhood.
The Christian Peacemakers Team is a faith-based pacifist organization that aims to limit violence by "getting in between." The CPT has had a continuous presence in the H2 area of Hebron since 1995. Its members regularly travel around Hebron to monitor abuses by the IDF and settlers, and attempt to place themselves in hostile situations to protect the safety of those involved. Through their website and e-mail lists, the CPT distributes regular, detailed reports about abuses witnessed by their volunteers in Hebron, thus providing one of the few credible sources about the human rights situation in Hebron.7 The settlers resent the CPT presence, and have attacked the CPT volunteers on numerous occasions.
On January 12, CPT volunteer Bob Holmes watched IDF soldiers explode a suspicious garbage bag (which turned out not to be a bomb) outside the Palestinian vegetable market near his home. After the IDF soldiers had carried out the controlled explosion, Holmes walked down the street to inspect the package. As he passed a group of settlers, a teenage settler came up to him, called him a Nazi, and began shoving Holmes in the chest. Holmes, in conformity with his pacifist principles, did not push back or attempt to defend himself, but called over to the adult settlers and said, "Do something about this boy." The adult settlers did not intervene to stop the attack, and just watched silently. Finally, two IDF soldiers came and pulled the teenage settler away, and ordered the settlers to leave. Holmes then went to the Israeli police station in Kiriat Arba to make a complaint, and the police took a full statement. However, Holmes could not identify the boy from among the photographs shown to him. 8 If the IDF had detained the boy, as they do regularly with Palestinian suspects, and handed him over to the Israeli police, the assault investigation would have had a greater chance for success.
IDF soldiers frequently overlook abuses by settlers while responding with excessive force to similar abuses by Palestinians. Stone throwing is a good example. On the afternoon of January 22, CPT volunteer Pierre Shantz was ascending a staircase in front of the Beit Haddassah settlement9 when stones hit the stairs around him. Shantz turned around and saw about ten young settler children, aged around eight or nine, laughing. A Palestinian who had walked on the stairs minutes before was also pelted by rocks. The IDF soldiers at the scene started pushing the children back into the settlement, and told Shantz that everything was `OK' and that he should just keep walking.10 Many similar attacks against the CPT are documented on their website.
Settlers have also attacked Palestinian journalists on numerous occasions. On Saturday February 10, 2001, Agence France-Presse (AFP) photographer Hossam Abu Aleim was walking with a colleague past the Beit Haddasah settlement on their way home at about 3 p.m. when they were confronted by three male settlers, aged between eighteen and twenty-two: "They were cursing at us, calling us dogs, and spitting at us. They told us in Hebrew, `one day you will be slaughtered.'"11 One of the settlers pulled back his fist and was about to hit Hossam's colleague, so Hossam decided to turn on his camera and photograph the incident. Suddenly, the IDF soldiers who had been passive up to this stage came over and tried to grab Hossam's camera and told him to leave the area, saying he was not supposed to be there. Hossam showed the soldiers his Israeli press card, but the soldiers threatened to confiscate the card. The soldiers kept Hossam at gunpoint for fifteen minutes before returning his press card and allowing him to leave. The soldiers did not attempt to arrest or even reprimand the settlers who had started the incident: "The soldiers did nothing to the settlers, they just protected them."12
On December 10, 2000, Hossam was photographing a disturbance at the vegetable market in the H2 section of Hebron, an area of frequent clashes between local residents and settlers who claim the area belongs to the Jewish community of Hebron and that the Palestinian market presents a security threat. Hossam explained what happened as he arrived:
When we reached the market, we saw the settlers turning over all the goods. There were about fifteen settlers, men, women, as well as girls and boys. We started photographing. All of a sudden, a group of about eight or nine settlers, men and women, attacked us. They were beating and kicking us, and hitting us with wooden sticks. They hit me on the back many times with something solid. ... I was beaten for three of four minutes. At the end, I was still conscious but unable to stand up.13
Eventually, IDF soldiers pulled the severely beaten Hossam out of the group of settlers, but the settlers continued to attack other photographers and Palestinians. Hossam felt that the IDF was no longer in control of the situation: "Instead of just making the settlers go away, [the soldiers] pulled me away, because they were unable to control the settlers."14
Kawther Salaam, a Palestinian journalist working for the Arabic language al Quds newspaper, has also been attacked by settlers, as well as facing regular abuse by IDF soldiers. When Kawther Salaam was walking around with Human Rights Watch researchers in the H2 area of Hebron on November 6, 2000, IDF soldiers harassed her by making sexually offensive whistle calls and calling her a "sharmuta," Arabic for prostitute, and "kalba," Arabic for bitch (female dog), in front of the researchers. Kawther Salaam explained that she was regularly harassed in this way.
On February 6, 2001, at about 11:45 a.m., Salaam was at the square in front of the Avraham Avino settlement:
At the square, I noticed two settler men, about forty to forty-five years old, with long beards and kippahs [skullcaps]. They were running up towards the Palestinian-controlled area of Abu Sneihneh. They were throwing stones and chasing Palestinian kids under eight years old.15
Salaam decided to stop and photograph the settlers. When the settlers noticed her taking photos, they began running towards her. Fearing for her safety, Salaam ran towards a nearby IDF post: "The settlers followed me to this point, and one of the soldiers got between me and the settlers, but another soldier grabbed me violently by both shoulders and threw me back towards the two settlers."16 A larger crowd of settlers gathered, some of whom had covered their faces with black cloth, and began shouting at Salaam and other journalists who had gathered, calling them "fascist journalists" and "Hitler journalists." Salaam called the Israeli police, but when they arrived, a police officer began pushing her back and threatened to arrest her. After leaving the scene, Salaam tried to make a complaint at the Kiriat Arba police station about the abusive settler and police behavior, but "no one responded to my knocks or presence, so I left."17
183 "Deputy Defense Minister: More Soldiers in Hebron than in Lebanon," Associated Press, August 9, 1999; Arieh O'Sullivan, "Sneh Tells Settlers: More IDF in Hebron than in Lebanon," Jerusalem Post, August 9, 1999.
185 The Israeli authorities do prevent the Israeli settlers from entering the Palestinian market area, because this area has been the site of many clashes provoked by the settlers, who claim the market was built on Jewish property following the 1929 Hebron massacre. All Israelis, including settlers, are also prohibited from entering territory under full Palestinian control (Area "A") because of security concerns.
189 Binyamin Kahane was the son of the assassinated Rabbi Meir Kahane, founder of the banned Kach movement which advocates the mass expulsion of Arabs from the Occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip and which continues to enjoin significant clandestine support among militant Hebron settlers. Binyamin Kahane was the founder of Kahane Chai, a similarly extremist party that was outlawed following the assassination of prime minister Rabin. Deborah Sontag, "Son of Slain Rabbi Kahane Dies With Wife in West Bank Ambush," New York Times, January 1, 2001.
192 "Graveside party to celebrate 1994 Hebron massacre okayed," Deutsche Presse-Agentur, March 8, 2001; "Israel Police Ban Party by Outlawed Group at Hebron Killer's Grave," Agence France-Presse, March 8, 2001; "Kach Vows to Return to Hebron Grave Today," Ha'aretz, March 9, 2001; "Israel Police Ban Party at Killer's Grave," Reuters, March 8, 2001.
193 "Celebrations and a curfew in Hebron," Ha'aretz, March 12, 2001; Margot Dudkevitch, "Hebron residents mark Purim with Parade," Jerusalem Post, March 12, 2001 also reported that some Hebron residents dressed up as Baruch Goldstein, waved photos of Goldstein, and drank wine from bottles with Goldstein's portrait on the label.
197 "Jewish Settlers Torch Palestinian Shops In Hebron Over Infant Killing," Agence France Presse, March 28, 2001; Greg Myre, "Hebron Settlers Demand Sharon Take a Tough Line with Palestinians," Associated Press, March 28, 2001.
198 Margot Dudkevitch, "Police: Jews Behind Hebron Blast that Wounded Border Policemen," Jerusalem Post, April 3, 2001; "Jewish Settlers Blow Up Palestinian Shop in Hebron, Israeli Soldiers Injured," Agence France-Presse, April 2, 2001.
223 Human Rights Watch interview with `Atta Jaber, Hebron, February 11, 2001. See also, Christian Peacemaking Team, "Israeli Settlers Invade Palestinian Home," December 13, 2000: "At 10:00am, about 40 settler men and youth moved outside and spread out along the ridge above several other Palestinian homes. The settlers then rushed down the hill and bombarded the homes with stones. Palestinian Shebab (teenagers) returned the rocks. A lone army jeep slowly made its way to the clash, too late for 13-year-old Mansour Naji Jabber who was shot in the abdomen outside his home."
251 Human Rights Watch interview, Hebron, November 5, 2001. On October 30, gunmen from a previously unknown group calling itself the "Saladin Brigades" killed two Israeli guards at a social welfare agency in East Jerusalem. The same day, the stabbed body of an Israeli, Amos Mahlouf, was found outside the Jewish settlement of Gilo, Israel responded with heavy airstrikes against Fatah and Force 17 headquarters in Ramallah, Nablus, and Khan Yunis. Deborah Sontag, "Barak Wins Support and Launches Strikes," New York Times, October 31, 2000.
4 Hebron is the only city in the Occupied Territories to have a constant international observer force, named the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH). TIPH, whose presence was agreed to by Israeli and Palestinian negotiators as part of the 1997 Hebron Redeployment Agreement, consists of about 80 unarmed observers from six countries (Italy, Turkey, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and Switzerland) who travel constantly around the Israeli-controlled H-2 area of Hebron in marked white Opel vehicles, observing and recording events in the area. TIPH does not report publicly on the abuses it documents, but provides confidential reports to their member governments as well as to the Israeli and Palestinian authorities. Its presence has made a positive contribution to reducing tensions, although the inability of TIPH to discuss its findings publicly has limited its positive impact.
5 Mark Matthews, "International Eyes Watch over Hebron: Armed but with Cameras, Small Group of Monitors Helps Limit City Violence," Baltimore Sun, November 16, 2000. See also David Wilder, "To TIPH or not to TIPH," Jerusalem Post, December 17, 2000.
9 Palestinians are prohibited from walking in front of Beit Haddassah settlement, and are forced to walk a steep detour around the settlement. In solidarity with the Palestinian community, the CPT volunteers walk the same detour when walking past Beit Haddassah settlement.