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AL-KHALIL (HEBRON): Settlers re-occupy Abu Rajib house

On 23 September 2013, in response to the death of Israeli soldier Staff Sgt. Gal Kobi, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for illegal settlement expansion in the Old City of Hebron.

At 1:00 a.m. on Tuesday 24 September, the Christian Peacemaker Team in Hebron received reports from the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee that Israeli settlers had re-occupied the Abu Rajib house west of the Tomb of the Patriarchs.  Settlers had been evicted from the building in April of 2012.

The resettlement of the Abu Rajib house is a direct and significant risk to the community of Hebron, international law, and human rights, as settlements are illegal under international law and impede the ongoing peace process.

In addition to the illegality of the settlement, the location of Abu Rajib will constitute a severe threat to the freedom of movement for Palestinians.  The house sits between two Palestinian Schools and Israeli military checkpoint 209, which CPT monitors every morning as part of its school patrol.  If the settlement remains, it will be in the middle of an area hundreds of Palestinian children must pass each morning to attend classes.

AL-KHALIL (HEBRON): Israeli military increases stranglehold on Hebron’s Old City area in preparation for Sukkoth


Israeli military searching and detaining Palestinian males
in the area around Checkpoint 29.

The military had closed checkpoint 29 and 209 meaning
CPT could not enter the area.  However the team observed
between 35-40 soldiers as well as several support vehicles
entering the neighbourhood beyond checkpoint 29. All
detained Palestinians where also taken into this
neighbourhood. CPT was unable to follow and does not
know what happened to these men.

Israeli security forces have added random check points, confiscated Palestinian housing units for patrol towers, and increased random searches of Palestinians, ostensibly to provide security for settlers and Jewish visitors to Hebron for the Jewish Holiday of Sukkoth.

Meanwhile, clashes also took place outside Checkpoints 209, which CPT monitors as part of its school accompaniment, and 29 near the Ibrahimi Mosque/Cave of Machpelah.  To prepare for the large influx of Jewish tourists, the Israeli military had moved the roadblocks outside these two checkpoints approximately 200 meters further down the road and re-directed Israeli tour buses down this route.  This move effectively enlarged area H2 under Israeli military control and disrupted life for hundreds of Palestinians.

Clashes started in the morning around these checkpoints as Israeli soldiers fired rounds of tear gas, sound bombs, and rubber-coated metal bullets onto the streets for several hours—lasting until dark.

Soldiers injured several Palestinians, including some shot during clashes in Bab iZaweyya, the economic center of Hebron just outside of the Old City.

As the night progressed, soldiers shut down checkpoints 29 and 209 completely, detaining and arresting several groups of Palestinians around the area.  They also prevented human right observers from monitoring the escalations between Israelis and Palestinians.

Soldiers took the Palestinians they detained to areas where human rights observers could not enter.

AL-KHALIL (HEBRON) REFLECTION: I am no longer a pacifist.

I've been a Mennonite for twenty years and a Mennonite pastor for three years.  But after a trip to Israel and Palestine this summer, I can no longer call myself a pacifist.

After spending just a few short days with a Christian Peacemaker Team delegation in Hebron, a tense city in the West Bank, I realized that opposing war–being a pacifist–is a position of privilege.  It’s easy for me to say that I oppose things, like war and violence.  I live a pretty secure life. 

In Hebron, Palestinians have to go through checkpoints every day of their lives.  Their bags are subject to search in these checkpoints, and they can be stopped on the street to show their papers to any military person who wishes to see them.  There are places in the city that they are not allowed to be, places that settlers can drive their cars but Palestinians cannot.  They live in an apartheid system.

 Hani Abu Haikel (left) interviewing and
translating for Hebron team

After watching soldiers or border police stopping my Palestinian friends and making them show their papers and explain where they were going several days in a row, I could feel my blood pressure rise, and my fists clench.  How can I simply be against war and violence when this is happening right in front of me!

I understood, when I felt those physical manifestations of anger, why Palestinians threw rocks at Israeli soldiers.  Or worse.  If my blood was boiling just watching this happen to Palestinian friends a few times, how much harder would it be to experience that personally every day?

AL-KHALIL (HEBRON): Israeli military denies entry to third CPTer in three months

 Brenneman in olive tree

On Tuesday, 17 September full-time CPTer Jonathan Brenneman was turned away at the Allenby border crossing between Jordan and the West Bank.

The Israeli authorities detained and questioned Brenneman for over seven hours before eventually sending him back to Jordan. When the Hebron team spoke to Brenneman, he had been waiting on the bridge for seven hours.  At the end of the conversation, Israeli security called him over.

During the process, Brenneman explained to the Israeli Border Patrol that he had come to Israel-Palestine to work with the Christian Peacemaker Teams in Hebron. 

SOUTH HEBRON HILLS: Report from Firing Zone 918

During their most recent weekly visit to villages in the South Hebron Hills, CPTers witnessed a large group of Israeli soldiers in the area and heard an artillery training activity.  Every week, Christian Peacemaker Teams, along with other internationals, provides a presence in an area, home to twelve villages, that the Israeli military has designated as Firing Zone 918—a closed military zone for training maneuvers.

On Sunday, 15 September, CPTers witnessed soldiers and a military vehicle near the village of Halaweh and two helicopter flyovers as children studied and played at the school in Al Fakheit.   They heard several other helicopters flying nearby during the night.  On the morning of 16 September, CPTers heard what seemed to be bomb detonation and machine gun fire.  Later in the morning, when they visited the village of Jinba, residents confirmed that the Israeli military had conducted infantry training exercises nearby from about 6:00 to 8:00 a.m. that morning. 

During their visit to Jinba village, CPTers learned that the Israeli authorities had stopped employees of World Vision as they were driving from Jinba to Al Fakheit and confiscated their car on 11 September.  According to a United Nations employee, soldiers said they would not return the car for at least sixty days.

The area has been relatively quiet since May – with no training activities seen or heard, though helicopter flyovers continued even during this “quiet” time and settler violence and a military raid occurred in July.  Here is a video of an Israeli military helicopter harrassing the village of Al Fakheit:

AL-KHALIL (HEBRON): Clashes erupt in Hebron at end of August


  Tear gas in Baab-i-Zawwiyye

On the morning of Monday, 26 August Israeli soldiers raided the Qalandia refugee camp to make an arrest.  As the soldiers moved through the camp, crowds gathered, and protests, which included stone-throwing, began.  In response, the Israeli military killed three Palestinians and injured fifteen.  The events in Qalandia created waves of protest throughout the West Bank.  That afternoon clashes erupted in Hebron.

Crowds of men and boys had gathered near a checkpoint in H1 (the part of Hebron under nominal Palestinian control).  When CPTers arrived, the crowds had begun throwing stones.  Israeli soldiers were on roofs.

A few blocks from the checkpoint (still in H1, where according to the Hebron protocols, Israeli soldiers are not allowed to be), soldiers had set off sound bombs.  As CPTers approached, the soldiers were retreating back towards the checkpoint; while most of the soldiers seemed relatively calm, one soldier was clearly agitated and momentarily focused his anger on CPTers before they retreated.

Prayers for Peacemakers, 6 September 2013

Prayers for Peacemakers, 6 September 2013

Pray for the people of the Old City of Hebron and the South Hebron Hills who received inconclusive rulings from Israel's High Court of Justice on cases that have crucial impacts on their lives this week.

Related Story:  JERUSALEM: Israeli High Court postpones ruling on al-Rajabi Building, sends Firing Zone 918 for mediation

JERUSALEM: Israeli High Court postpones ruling on al-Rajabi Building, sends Firing Zone 918 for mediation

On 2 September 2013, Israel’s High Court of Justice heard arguments on two cases that could significantly change the character of the West Bank , in particular the Old City of Hebron and the South Hebron Hills villages of  Majaez, Taban, Isfay, Fakhit, Hallawa, Al Mirkaz, Jinba and Kharuba.  In the case of the al-Rajabi Building in Hebron, it postponed its ruling, and it submitted the case of the villages in the area that the Israeli military has designated as Firing Zone 918 for mediation.

Although the two court cases are distinct, they both represent all too common Israeli violations of international law that evict Palestinians from their homes and carve out portions of the West Bank to make room for the expansion of Israeli settlements onto Palestinian lands.

Map of "Firing Zone 918," courtesy of B'Tselem 

AL-KHALIL (HEBRON): Solidarity demonstration held at al-Rajabi building

Yesterday CPT attended a demonstration in solidarity with the families from the Wadi al-Hussein area of Hebron, where the al-Rajabi house is located.

Demonstrators shouted in Arabic, “No to settlements!” highlighting the possible future of the Al Rajabi building.

Today, (Monday, 2 September) the Israeli High Court in Jerusalem will decide to whom the al-Rajabi building belongs: the al-Rajabi family or the settlers.

The demonstration occurred with no violence, despite the fact that settlers, who appeared tense and uncomfortable with the number of Palestinians in attendance, were present. Settlers stood along side the Israeli military, taking pictures and filming the demonstrators. After around thirty minutes, a large contingent of Israeli soldiers broke up the demonstration

Palestinians are worried that violence will occur if the settlers take over the building and the area becomes a closed military zone. If Palestinians win the building back, locals are still concerned that there will be a “price tagging” campaign (settlers taking revenge by attacking Palestinians and their property) in the area.

“We are appealing to the international community, diplomats and consulates to put pressure on the Israeli government to stop the [Al Rajabi] decision,” said the Governor of Hebron.

The Hebron Rehabilitation Committee (HRC) organised the demonstration, attended by Youth Against Settlement (YAS) and the Hebron Defence Committee (HDC).  Organisations attending alongside CPT were the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme for Palestine and Israel (EAPPI).

Click here for information on the al-Rajabi building.

AL-KHALIL (HEBRON): Israeli military order CPT and EAPPI to leave Ibrahimi Mosque vicinity


 Palestinians Praying at Ibrahimi mosque
while CPTers monitor
 photo by Tammie Danielsen, former EA

On Friday the 30 August, Israeli border police aggressively ordered CPT’s Hebron team and their partner organisation EAPPI (Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel) to leave the area of the Ibrahim mosque.

In recent months, Israeli forces have repeatedly ordered both CPT and EAPPI have to remove anything that identifies them as working for an international organisation, within a small strip of road adjacent to the Ibrahim Mosque.  Although this edict is an apparent order from commanding officers, CPTers on the ground have not seen it in writing despite having asked many times.  Border Police (link) have enforced the order randomly depending on the individual Border guard and who the commanding officers are at the time.

On Friday, the Israeli forces took a new and more aggressive stance, ordering CPT and EAPPI to completely leave the vicinity of the Ibrahimi Mosque/Cave of Machpelah whilst the two groups were conducting their weekly monitoring of soldiers and settlers present as Palestinian Muslims attend Friday prayers.

Israeli Border guards confronted CPT and EAPPI about twenty minutes after they arrived at the mosque.  One of them barked, "You will leave!  Either you go on your own, or we will force you!"