In October I will also be trying to foster grassroots links with grassroots organisations in the Jordan valley region, the most fertile area of the West Bank in danger of annexation by the Israeli state suffering from exploitation by Israeli and international corporations...
At approximately 12.40pm an Israeli border police van stopped and asked two international Human Rights Workers (HRWs) on Shuhada Street whether they spoke English. When they replied that they did, one of the border police said, “I no speak English” and the policemen drove away. This happened a couple of times, until the border police stopped again and asked one of the HRWs if they could see the film on her camera. One of the policemen then looked through the pictures on the HRW’s digital camera, apparently looking for photos of soldiers, of which there were none. The policemen were all unusually friendly during all these exchanges. A short while later, the van pulled up at a nearby checkpoint and a few of the border police jumped out of the back of the van and chased each other a short way up the street, trying to hit each other. Later, the border police van stopped again, and the driver of the police van blew kisses to both the male HRW and the female HRW on Shuhada Street. He then made hand gestures to a young Palestinian child, who had been talking to the HRWs, to approach him. Once the child had approached, he then made hand gestures for him to go away and repeated this sequence several times. The border policemen’s behaviour during all these incidents was very unusual and the HRWs wondered at its cause, although they saw no signs of alcohol use or any other such substance during these incidents.
At shortly before 5pm, three Israeli army vans pulled up at the checkpoint and two HRWs noticed that some of the soldiers had gone into the entrance of a Palestinian house next to the checkpoint. They seemed to be interfering with the ground-floor door to a Palestinian dwelling but when questioned by a HRW as to what they were doing, the soldiers refused to answer. A Palestinian lady and child left the building shortly afterwards and seemed to be saying that the army had not entered their house. Shortly after this, approximately 12 soldiers suddenly rushed through checkpoint 56 into H1 (under the 1997 Hebron Protocol, the H1 area of the city that is supposed to be controlled by the Palestinian Authority). They linked up with a further 10 to 12 soldiers and marched around the Old City for approximately 10-15 minutes. They then split into two groups - one of about fourteen, the other of approximately six. After a couple more minutes, the larger group entered a military base. On walking back through the Old City four soldiers were seen standing outside a children’s toyshop. On closer inspection another two soldiers were seen standing inside talking with the shop’s owner. After a few minutes they left. The shop owner indicated that the soldiers had been looking at toy guns and showed the HRW an empty box from which a gun had been taken. Whether the soldiers paid for the toy gun could not be determined. Just before the checkpoint to re-enter Tel Rumeida, the soldiers stopped a taxi, made the owner get out and examined his boot, before letting him go. A HRW on the H2 (Israeli controlled side under the Hebron Protocol) side of checkpoint 56 saw the soldiers returning from the patrol and carrying the toy gun. The soldiers were obviously very excited by this toy and pretended to fire at each other with it.
Tuesday 17th October
At 12.35pm two soldiers asked a HRW sitting opposite checkpoint 56 to not watch the soldiers at the checkpoint and to move up the hill away from the checkpoint. The HRW refused to do this and the soldiers then rather strangely asked the HRW to move over to the other side of the road. The HRW did this, as this position is actually closer to the checkpoint and affords a better view of both the soldiers and the Palestinians passing through.
At 3pm on Shuhada Street, a HRW said “good afternoon” to two passing soldiers who were walking past. One of the soldiers responded by coming up to the HRW and very aggressively kicking the door to a Palestinian house close to the HRW’s face. He obviously found this very amusing, as he laughed loudly as he moved down the street. When the HRW asked the soldier why he had done this, the second soldier responded, “He doesn’t like you”. A few minutes later, a Palestinian man who had been walking down Shuhada Street in the opposite direction to the soldiers told the HRW that the aggressive soldier had told the second soldier that he should hit the Palestinian man in order to make the HRW take a photograph.
At roughly 4pm, four border policemen and a normal policeman walked down Shuhada Street from Beit Hadassah settlement, one pausing to look at the HRW stationed there and to peer into her bag. The soldiers then stopped at checkpoint 56 and started stopping most young Palestinian men who passed through the checkpoint into Tel Rumeida and taking their ID cards to be checked. This continued until 5.05pm when the border police left. During this hour and 5 minutes, between 20 and 30 Palestinians were detained and had to wait in a line by the side of the road for their IDs to be returned to them. This took between 10 minutes and half an hour at a time when the Palestinians were making their way home for their evening meal after having been fasting all day for Ramadan. One man was kept for longer than the others, for roughly 35 minutes. At one point during this detention, a border policeman asked the man his name, got his ID from the policeman who was holding it, waved in the man’s face, then gave it back to the policeman so that the detention could continue. At one point, the Palestinian obviously got fed up with waiting and stood up to leave, but was prevented from doing so by the border police until they were finished with his ID. When a HRW asked one of the border policemen why they had done the ID checks at this particular time of the day, he answered, “Those are the rules”.
At 8pm a man was detained for forty five minutes for walking past the Tel Rumeida (Eli Yishei) settlement. The man was new to the area and did not know about the army restrictions on using the road. One soldier, at the Tel Rumeida guardpost, was agitated and gesticulating with his gun.
Constant Harassment of Palestinian Civilian Living Close to Eli Yishei Settlement