Hebron, Tue 15.1.08, Afternoon
We arrived at 12:40, when children were supposed to leave school and when, according to reports from residents, the army is patrolling in the camp and stones are being thrown on them and soldiers are responding with tear gas and so on....But we did not see any soldiers and children and we learned that the mid-year holidays of 2 weeks have begun. The owner of the grocery store on road 60 told us that the day before at about 17:00 he was approached by soldiers who ordered him to close his store. Children have thrown stones from within the camp on bypassing cars and the army was about to enter the camp to catch them. He heard shootings and felt tear gas. The soldiers entered the camp through the only entrance open for vehicles and closed it for the time of the incursion, so that no one could enter or exit the camp.
We were informed by friends from Beit Omar that in the last days they had troubles to get out of the village to road 60 and that the village was closed by a gate. When we arrived we could see no problems in going in or out of Beit Omar neither by car nor by foot. We asked the reserve soldiers who were positioned under the watch tower why the residents have been prevented from leaving their village. We learned that explosive charges were found in the vicinity of the watch tower on 4 different days and in order to neutralise them the village was closed for several hours. Not only the village, but the traffic on road 60 was stopped as well. It turned out that captain Yotam, who explained us in great details the process of neutralizing explosive charges, was also the one who headed the incursion into El Aroub the day before. We reminded him that entering a refugee camp is regarded as a great provocation by the residents."If you were not there, no stones would have been thrown on you. 20 minutes before we have been in El Aroub and there were no soldiers and no stones". But he argued that he was called because stones were thrown on passing vehicles.
No people on the streets. Only soldiers, who seem to outnumber the settlers. Our presence attracts attention and a young settler wanted to know what were doing there. Tamar is patient and tries to explain. He takes up the challenge and wants to convince us of his justice. Absurd conversation. Walking by so many check- and control points we experience almost physically the claustrophobia and the surveillance the Palestinian experience every day and every hour of the day.
At the Tel Romeida checkpoint we observed soldiers checking the bags of every Palestinian by passer. The cars of the settlers raced up the steep road as if they wanted to get home as fast as possible. Near the International House we met a young woman from ISM who described the situation in Hebron as somehow calmer than a couple of weeks ago.
When we visited Hagit's friend Bassam on our way back, we heard a different reality. On Wednesday, 9.1.07 when Busch arrived in Jerusalem, settlers occupied Palestinian land in the Wadi al Nasara, not far from the disputed house, built a tent, closed all the roads in the vicinity and threw stones on by passers. The owner of the land went to the police with documents proving his ownership of the land and requested that the police remove the settlers, but they refused to do it. For 5 days the settlers prevented Palestinians from using the road adjacent to the occupied land, forcing them to take a detour through the muddy ground. Throughout this time the soldiers stood by and watched when young settlers verbally harassed and threw stones at passing Palestinians, some of whom had been wounded. Only Sunday 13.1. the army evacuated the settlers of their "new settlement" (see also report by CPT in the Occupation Magazine" http://www.kibush.co.il/show_file.asp?num=24622 )
Bassam said that all the stone throwing events, where Palestinian have been injured were videotaped and complaints have been filed with the police. We connected him with an activist of Yesh Din who will take care of the incidents.