AL-KHALIL: Israeli military forcefully shuts down Old City

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.