13 July 2012
AL-KHALIL: Israeli military forcefully
shuts down Old City
On 10 July the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) entered
the old city of Hebron without warning or explanation,
and with great force shut down every shop in the old market (suuq). At 16:50,
after twenty minutes of searching shops and tunnels, the IDF ordered every
shopkeeper in H2* from Bab il
Baledeyya to the Mosque gate to close within five minutes and evacuate the
area. They also detonated percussion grenades at close range to shopkeepers and
pedestrians whom they had trapped in the narrow streets of the suuq and
searched many homes.
At 16:30, two members of the Christian
Peacemaker Teams on regular patrol witnessed approximately forty IDF soldiers
enter the old city through the Ibrahimi Mosque checkpoint. The soldiers searched
shops and the upper and lower tunnels in a tactical parade. Twenty soldiers
quickly moved into TIPH Park. There they cornered a Palestinian man, trapped
him inside a concrete structure and detained him. Other soldiers moved north,
yelled and gave commands to shopkeepers and pedestrians throughout the suuq,
while they continued to search shops and tunnels.
The CPT members monitored and recorded the
action and moved freely for a time. Then the IDF forced the CPT team and other
pedestrians north and instructed the shopkeepers to close. The CPT members
walked to the north end of the suuq to find another forty to fifty soldiers
engaged in the same tactics as those on the southern end of the suuq. The
soldiers at the north end of the suuq blocked the exit and ordered all in the
suuq to evacuate through the south checkpoint.
|Soldiers disperse crowd with three sound grenades.
Without warning the IDF threw a percussion
grenade into the crowd and it exploded less than five meters from one CPT
member. Panic and chaos ensued in the narrow corridor as the crowd pushed south.
Within a minute of the first percussion grenade, a second exploded to the south
pushing pedestrians north. Soldiers trapped over one hundred shopkeepers and
shoppers, both local and international, in the suuq with nowhere to go.
Suddenly they released all of them allowing them to exit at either end.
Over the next hour IDF soldiers searched many
local homes. Witnesses said they threw a percussion grenade into each home
before entering. Once the suuq was empty the IDF blocked local residents’
access to their homes in the Suuq. At 18:15 the IDF began
retreating into the base at Bab I Baledeyya. As they did, the shopkeepers
detained by the IDF on the south of the suuq came flooding out of the north end
and dispersed to their homes for the night. The assault ended by 18:30 as the
soldiers retreated to their barracks. CPT is not aware of any arrests during
the assault. “This seemed very much like a high intensity training exercise at
the expense of the Palestinian people,” one CPT member commented.
*In H2, a portion of Al-Khalil (Hebron)
that includes the heart of the Old City, the Israeli military restricts
the movement of more than 30,000 Palestinians while allowing 500 Jewish
settlers to move freely.