[Note: According to the Geneva Conventions, the International Court of Justice in The Hague, and numerous United Nations resolutions, all Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal. Most settlement outposts are considered illegal under Israeli law.]
January–February 2010 was marked by Israeli military and settler attacks on and harassment of Palestinians living in the South Hebron Hills. On some occasions, settlers practiced with their slingshots in areas highly visible from Palestinian shepherds’ grazing areas, or chased Palestinian shepherds while launching rocks from their slingshots. On other occasions the military also perpetrated the violence, often forcing shepherds to leave their land. In addition to physical attacks, Israeli military and settlers also destroyed Palestinian property.
The Israeli military continued to fail in its obligation to escort the children from Tuba and Maghayir al Abeed to and from school in At-Tuwani. The military’s negligence included failing to appear for the escort; refusing to complete the escort and leaving the children unaccompanied in areas of danger from settler attacks, and arriving late for the escort, resulting in the children’s tardiness to school. In addition, the Israeli military interfered with Palestinian children and teachers’ transportation from school in the Palestinian village of Al Fakheit.
Despite continuing pressure, harassment, and attacks from the Israeli military and settlers, Palestinians in the South Hebron Hills continued to organize nonviolent actions and marches to assert their right to land access and education.
On team during this period were Jan Benvie, Laura Ciaghi, Cassandra Dixon, Joy Ellison, Jessica Fredrick, Joshua Hough, Sarah MacDonald, Sam Nichols, Magdalene Walker, and members of Operation Dove (the Doves).
Israeli military and Settlers Harass and Attack Palestinians
Friday 1 January
An Israeli settler and Israeli soldiers harassed children from Maghayir al Abeed who were grazing their sheep. Later in the day, masked settlers attacked two Palestinian shepherds from At-Tuwani. Settlers left the settlement outpost of Havat Ma’on and hurled rocks at the shepherds, while other settlers were visible from within the outpost. When other Palestinians and internationals arrived at the scene of the attack, the settlers withdrew into the outpost.
Thursday 7 January
Israeli soldiers attacked and injured Palestinian shepherds from the Musa Raba’i family as they grazed their sheep in Humra valley, near At-Tuwani. One elderly woman, Umm Juma’ Raba’i, and a young woman, Umm Ribhi Raba’i, who was two months pregnant, had to be taken to hospital, suffering from the effects of tear gas inhalation. Three of the shepherds, Kamaal Raba’i, Majde Raba’i and Juma’ Raba’i were hospitalized for their injuries, and a young boy, Ramze Jamaal Raba’i, had his tooth broken. The soldiers also attacked the CPTers accompanying the shepherds and broke a video camera. (See 8 January CPTnet release, Israeli soldiers attack and injure Palestinian shepherds; arrest Musab Raba’i and video .)
Before leaving the area, the soldiers arrested one of the shepherds, Musab Musa Raba’i and took him to a military base near Suseya settlement. There, soldiers struck him in the back, in the face, and slammed him into walls. After four hours of interrogation and torture, they took Raba’i to Israeli police station in Kiryat Arba settlement. The policemen told Raba’i that if they ever saw his face again they would kill him. After thirty minutes, the police tied his hands and feet, blindfolded him, drove him to a location unknown to him, and threw him out of the jeep. (See 12 January CPTnet release, Shepherd tortured for five hours by Israeli soldiers and police.)
Saturday 2 January
Shortly after midnight, two jeeploads of soldiers entered At-Tuwani. The soldiers went to three families’ homes and searched for the home of a fourth.
Wednesday 6 January
The army came into At-Tuwani shortly after 9:00 p.m. Soldiers switched off the generator that provides electricity to the village during the evening and took its keys.
Tuesday 12 January
During the night, the Israeli military erected a tent on a hilltop near the Palestinian village of Maghayir al Abeed. The next day, Doves observed two Israeli military Humvees, an army jeep, and about fourteen soldiers in the area. According to a Maghayir al Abeed resident, soldiers declared the area within 300 meters of the tent a closed military zone for one week. For the rest of the month, soldiers dismantled and re-erected the tent several times.
Sunday 17 January
Around 4:30 am, the Israeli military stopped a Palestinian driving near the village of Um Fagarah, shooting at the car and arresting a Palestinian man in the car. The military stayed in the village until 8:30 a.m.
Tuesday 26 January
Between fifteen and twenty Israeli settlers from the Israeli settlement of Ma’on and the Israeli outpost of Havat Ma’on attacked Palestinians in the village of At-Tuwani. Accompanying them were Israeli soldiers in three jeeps and the settlement security agent of Ma’on. One settler entered Palestinian homes, claiming to be looking for sheep belonging to him. Villagers from At-Tuwani approached the army, protesting the settlers coming into their village. They asked the soldiers to bring the police and conduct a proper, legal search. An Israeli soldier punched a Palestinian villager, breaking his nose and blackening his eye. He was hospitalized for his injuries and will require an operation. Immediately thereafter, Israeli settlers began throwing stones at the Palestinian villagers while soldiers fired three sound bombs at Palestinians. (See 27 January CPTnet release, AT-TUWANI: Israeli settlers and soldiers invade At-Tuwani, attack and injure villagers.)
Monday, 1 February
In the afternoon, two Israeli military helicopters landed within sight of al-Khoruba Hill, and about 20 settlers appeared to conduct exercises alongside the army, masking themselves and practicing rock-throwing. A Palestinian from Maghayir al-Abeed Village told internationals that a helicopter had also landed in his village.
Tuesday, 2 February
The Israeli military re-erected a tent outpost they have periodically used near the village of Maghayir al-Abeed. When a Palestinian shepherd came within sight of the tent, a soldier threw at rock at him. Later the soldiers told the shepherd to graze farther down the hill.
Wednesday, 3 February
As Ellison and Frederick walked to al-Khoruba Hill, a Palestinian going the same way on a donkey joined them. A settler approached and launched a rock from his slingshot, but then returned to Havat Ma’on as the group continued onward.
Saturday, 6 February
Around 10:00 a.m., settlers from Havat Ma’on threw rocks at Palestinians in al-Humra Valley. When CPTers arrived, four masked settlers were visible inside Havat Ma’on. After one hour, Israeli soldiers arrived and told the Palestinians to leave. The Palestinians insisted they owned the land and had the right to graze sheep there. Palestinian shepherds from Tuba informed internationals that at around 2:00 p.m., settlers had approached the shepherds in Sha’b Shaadi, threw stones, and chased them away.
Wednesday, 10 February
In the morning and afternoon, settlers gathered and practiced with their slingshots outside Havat Ma’on while Palestinian shepherds grazed below in al-Humra Valley. They approached and yelled at a Palestinian shepherd, who quickly left the area.
Sunday, 14 February
At 3:30 p.m., settlers drove a pickup truck to an area where a Palestinian shepherd was grazing his sheep. The settlers chased and threw rocks at the shepherd and his sheep. During the attack, four other settlers were practicing with their slingshots just outside Havat Ma’on.
Thursday, 18 February
Around 11:00 a.m., settlers grazed their sheep on a field in al-Mashakha Valley owned and plowed by Palestinians, thus damaging the Palestinian landowner’s grass crop.
Friday, 19 February
Around 2:00 p.m., internationals heard that soldiers had taken two goats from a young shepherd in Umm Zeituna. The soldiers also detained the boy for approximately two hours and allowed a settler to strike him. (See 1 March CPTnet release, CPT video highlights ongoing soldier-settler collaboration to abuse Palestinian shepherds.)
Around 11:15 a.m., settlers approached at-Tuwani and stood above al-Humra Valley, watching Palestinians graze sheep and plow there. About five settlers, one masked, came closer to at-Tuwani. When Israeli police and soldiers arrived, declaring a closed military zone, the settlers withdrew into Havat Ma’on and Palestinians went home.
Saturday, 20 February
Shepherds from the villages of Tuba and Saadet Tha’lah brought five flocks to graze together in Umm Zeituna, accompanied by Ciaghi and Hough. Throughout the morning, the Ma’on settlement security guard drove around the area. Later a squad of soldiers arrived. The young shepherd whom soldiers and settlers had detained on the day before recognized one of them as his captors. A soldier showed the CPTers a closure order and gave them ten minutes to leave the area. The soldier refused to specify any security reason for the order. After Palestinians and internationals began moving away slowly, the soldiers chased the shepherds and their flocks, who all dispersed rapidly.
Around 3:30 p.m., Palestinians told internationals of problems in al-Khelli Valley. When MacDonald and Walker responded, shepherds from Jawaiya Village told them that settlers had thrown rocks at them, but left when the Israeli police arrived.
Tuesday, 23 February
In the morning, Ciaghi and Dixon accompanied Palestinian shepherds in al-Humra Valley. From Havat Ma’on two settlers appeared, one masked. A shepherd recognized one as having chased the children on the day before (see 22 February in school escort section below). Around noon, six settlers gathered outside Havat Ma’on for slingshot practice. Later one of them approached Palestinian shepherds in al-Mashakha Valley, masked and swinging his slingshot.
MacDonald and Nichols accompanied shepherds near the Palestinian village of Tuba. In the early afternoon, soldiers chased the shepherds and flocks back to the village and seized two of the shepherds, Khalil Ibrahim Abu Jundiya, and his cousin. As the shepherds’ families tried to intervene, a soldier head-butted Khalil’s brother, Ahmed. Then the soldiers took Khalil away, blindfolded, and handcuffed. (See 2 March CPTnet release, AT-TUWANI: Israeli soldiers arrest Palestinian shepherd, assault Palestinian youth)
Thursday, 25 February
Ciaghi and Hough responded to trouble with the Israeli military in al-Khelli Valley. They found a Palestinian woman with her flock, the Ma’on settlement security guard, and a squad of soldiers at the site. The soldiers would not allow the woman into the valley, claiming she was about trespass on settlement land, even though Israeli maps place the valley outside the settlement’s municipal boundaries.
Israeli military and Settlers Destroy Palestinian Property
Saturday 2 January
After accompanying Palestinian students and teachers traveling to and from Al Fakheit School, Benvie and the Al Fakheit School principal photographed the school vehicle that the Israeli military confiscated on 20 December 2009. (See 23 December CPTnet release, Israeli army forces children and teachers to walk an hour from school after confiscating truck)
They found the car in the Israeli military firing zone near Jinba. Part of the engine had been removed and the headlamps were smashed. Much of the wiring in the dashboard was also removed.
Thursday 14 January
Palestinians discovered that a family-owned olive grove in Khoruba valley had been recently destroyed. Twenty mature olive trees were broken at their trunks. The family believes that Israeli settlers from the Ma’on settlement and Havat Ma’on outpost are responsible for the vandalism. A Palestinian farmer informed internationals who documented the destruction that since 1997 that settlers have destroyed the olive trees in this grove five times. (See 19 January CPTnet release, Palestinian olive grove destroyed in the night.)
Israeli military fails to protect school children and interferes with their right to education
Sunday, 3 January
The Israeli military detained students and teachers returning from school in Al Fakheit.
Sunday 10 January
The Israeli military failed to escort Palestinian schoolchildren from Tuba to school in At-Tuwani in time for end of term exams. The military’s failure to arrive at the correct time forced the children to wait for over an hour in an area where Israeli settlers have frequently attacked them. When the children attempted to walk an alternative route without the military, a masked settler blocked their path. As he walked toward them, the younger ones began to cry and all the children ran back to Tuba.
Thursday 14 January
The school children waited for almost an hour before the army arrived to escort them to school. When the army arrived, the jeep stopped before reaching the appointed pick-up location, leaving the children to walk unaccompanied in a dangerous area.
Tuesday, 9 February
In the morning, an Israeli settler drove behind the children and shouted at them. The soldiers, who remained in their jeep, yelled at the children to run and catch up with the jeep.
Thursday, 11 February
In the afternoon, while the children were awaiting the escort, a settler drove quickly up the road to them, nearly striking some of them.
Thursday, 18 February
The Israeli military failed to escort the children in the morning. After waiting about an hour for it, the children walked a different path to school, on which they have previously been chased and attacked by settlers. Only five children walked to school in the morning, arriving forty-five minutes after the start of classes. Later, the father of some of the children walked with the rest of them on a much longer path.
Monday, 22 February
In the morning, the military escort did not arrive. Eventually, the father of some of the children walked them to school on a longer winding path. The military failed to arrive to take the children home to Tuba Village. Two settlers approached on a tractor and attempted to block the escort road with boulders. After waiting for nearly an hour, the children began a longer route home. On their way, settlers chased them.
Saturday 9 January
Tuwani residents organized a march to the Al Fakheit School to draw attention to the ongoing obstacles children and teachers face when traveling to school. In addition, the march highlighted the recent confiscation and destruction of the truck used to transport students and teachers to Al Fakheit. During the march, the Israeli military declared At-Tuwani a closed military zone and set up a checkpoint at the entrance to the village. The Israeli military also smashed the window of a car owned by an At-Tuwani family.
A police officer who participated in the property damage told Ellison that he was a settler from Hebron.
Sunday 10 January – Tuesday 12 January
Um Fagarah residents successfully plowed land near Avigail settlement. Neither settlers nor the Israeli military interfered with the farming. A Palestinian told CPTers he was happy because he has plowed and planted areas he has been unable to access for a number of years.
Saturday 23 January
At-Tuwani residents organized an olive tree planting demonstration in response to the recent destruction of an olive grove in Khoruba valley. (See 3 February CPTnet release, Palestinians plant olive trees to protest settler vandalism, despite Israeli military interventions and arrest of a journalist) While Palestinian farmers, accompanied by internationals, were planting olive trees, fifteen settlers approached the area, some carrying slingshots. Israeli soldiers and police also arrived. The soldiers informed the Palestinians that the area was a closed military zone, showing them a map that encompassed a large area south of Havat Ma’on outpost. Police arrested a Palestinian journalist, saying he had violated the closed military zone order. They released him later.
During the demonstration in At-Tuwani, shepherds held grazing action near the village of Tuba. Soldiers detained a teenage shepherd during the demonstration and later released them.
Friday 29 and Saturday 30 January
Palestinians from the village of Jinba planted 450 almond trees. The villagers organized the action to assert their right to access their privately owned land. In the 1990s, a large area of the land had been declared “a closed military zone” by the Israeli military and used for training operations. Since then, Palestinians landowners have not been able to cultivate their land. During the action, however, the villagers and internationals successfully planted the trees on the privately owned Palestinian land.