Settler Aggression against Palestinian Children in Hebron


Ahmad Jaradat and Emma Mancini-AIC

On Wednesday 6th April, a kindergarten in the Old City of Hebron was attacked by Israeli settlers. Four settlers arrived at the kindergarten with dogs, threatening the children from behind the fence. The 5 year old children were frightened by the barking of the dogs and the shouting of the settlers,

Israeli soldiers patrolling the streets of Hebron

and many of them were in a state of shock following the attack.
The Palestine Red Crescent Society was immediately called, but the Israeli soldiers who control the area stopped the ambulance. Doctors and nurses were forced to reach the kindergarten by foot, thus delaying assistance to the children.
The kindergarten is located near the Ibrahimi Mosque, in the H2 area of Hebron and adjacent to the electric gates under military control. The Hebron Agreement, a protocol signed in 1997 between then PLO Chairman, Yasser Arafat, and Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, has divided the city in two sectors: H1 under Palestinian authority and H2 under Israeli military control.
In area H2, comprising some 35% of Hebron, including the Old City, live 15,000 Palestinians and 500 Israeli settlers, the latter divided into five small settlements. To guard the area, there are 2,000 Israeli soldiers, who strengthen the daily violence of settlers against the Palestinian residents. The army occupies the roofs and upper floors of several Palestinian houses in order to build control towers, forcing the inhabitants to leave their own homes.
The closure of the main road of the city, Shuhada Street, and establishment of the five settlements produce the marked division of Hebron: the settlements of Tel Rumeida, Beit Hadassan, Shallah Compound, Beit Romano and Avraham Avinu cut the city from North to South, preventing normal daily life for tens of thousands Palestinians.
The attack against the children in the kindergarten is yet another abuse committed by Jewish settlers: targeting and threatening children is a settler way to try and weaken Palestinian resistance. The aim is to force families who are still living in the Old City to leave their houses.
Because of the ongoing Israeli violence, the Old City, which in the past was the economic heart of the whole district, became a “ghost city”. The aim of separation has been reached by settlers and soldiers through checkpoints, electrified fences and walls. Palestinian vehicles are not allowed to enter into area H2 and in several cases pedestrians can’t walk in the streets of the Old City.
By preventing the population from using the main transport links, the Israeli authorities are stopping economic development of the city. The closure of Shuhada Street (despite an Israeli Supreme Court ruling that Palestinian people are allowed to use it) denies Palestinians freedom of movement. The Palestinian people are forced to add several kilometers to their journey to reach some areas in Hebron, because of checkpoints and closed streets. Moreover, the Israeli army continues to impose closures on the few Palestinian shops that are still open in the H2 area: the orders, justified as necessary for security, are resulting in the disappearance of commercial activities.
One effect of this apartheid regime is the physical segregation of Palestinian people, submitted to violence and privations by Israeli settlers. The army often intervenes on behalf of the settlers, producing additional pain to Palestinian families.
Over the years, settlers attacks have become increasingly violent. Stone throwing, beating, poisoning of water and home raids are some of the Israeli tactics to threaten the Palestinian inhabitants. Every day the settlers, who have occupied the upper floors of Palestinian buildings, throw garbage, stones and bottles at shops and flats located down below. Palestinian owners are obliged to build fences in order to avoid these objects. Thefts, devastations and occupations of Palestinian houses force a number of residents to leave the Old City: settlers and soldiers are realizing the “quiet transfer” of Palestinians outside H2 area. A report by the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem from December 2006 showed that at least 1,000 Palestinian houses (representing over 40% of housing in Hebron’s centre) in the H2 area have been abandoned by their inhabitants.
In Hebron the rights of safety, freedom of movement, health and personal property are violated by settlers together with the army. The soldiers impose long curfews and every day carry out humiliations, arrests, arbitrary body searches and unauthorized house searches. These kinds of harassment violate international law, human rights law and at times even Israeli law.
The Palestinian right to health also feels the effects of such treatment. As happened with the settlers’ attack on the kindergarten last Wednesday, ambulances and medical teams often have difficulty reaching people who are injured by settlers or soldiers.  Teams from the Palestinian Red Crescent Society often have spent more time than is necessary to give aid.
Despite the settlers’ violence and the army’s harassment, Palestinians living in Hebron continue to resist. After closures of Hebron’s main vegetable market and bus station, Palestinian residents in the H2 area have preferred other solutions instead of establishing a new market and bus station. Building new structures means accepting the occupation of Hebron and the colonization of the Old City. So the Palestinian people have decided to shop for vegetables and use the streets for their “bus station” in area H1.
The popular resistance fights against the “normalization” of the division.

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