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Locals: Humiliating treatment continuing in Hebron's Old City

Dec. 30, 2015 2:31 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 31, 2015 10:30 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Increased restrictions imposed by the Israeli military last month in Hebron’s Old City in the occupied West Bank continued to disrupt the lives of thousands of Palestinians through December, locals said.

Areas of the Old City were declared a closed military zone in November, with shops forced to close and Palestinian residents required to register for special permits to cross through the 18 military checkpoints in the city center.

Hebron resident Suzan Jabir, who volunteers with Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, told Ma’an that military checkpoints around the Ibrahimi mosque, the old marketplace and Jabir quarter have become site to more degrading treatment than had existed previously.

“Israeli occupation forces inspect every child, woman and young man” twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, Suzan said.

“I have been inspected several times by Israeli soldiers, and when I requested that they bring a female soldier to inspect women, they refused and threatened to shoot me if I don’t comply with their orders,” Suzan told Ma’an.

While a sign in Arabic before each checkpoint reads “stop for inspection,” Suzan told Ma’an that Israeli forces stop people for hours and force them to face a wall motionlessly.

Suzan said that the forces “humiliate, kill and detain men, women, children and elderly people...the only pretext is the security obsession and alleged fear from stabbing attacks.”

Among those who locals say suffer from Israeli military presence are schoolchildren and teachers whose schools located in and around Hebron’s Old City.

Suzan told Ma’an that teachers of the local al-Muyanabby school must go through time-consuming inspections while students wait in nearby alleyways, in order that they may walk through “heavily armed Israeli soldiers manning checkpoints” with adult protection.

Treatment reported by Suzan has been common to Palestinians in the Hebron area since the city was divided in 1997 under the Oslo agreements.

The majority of the city was placed under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority, while the Old City and surrounding areas were placed under Israeli military control, known as H2.

The area is home to 30,000 Palestinians and around 800 Israeli settlers who live under the protection of Israeli forces. Hebron residents frequently report attacks and harassment by the settlers, carried out in the presence of the forces.

A resident of the Jabir quarter of Hebron’s Old City, Arif Jabir, told Ma’an that residents in his quarter as well as the al-Salam quarter must pass through a checkpoint “every 50 meters,” where they pass through “humiliating inspections.”

Meanwhile, hundreds of Palestinian families living in the area are prevented by Israeli authorities from building or refurbishing homes, driving their vehicles, or at times walking through the area., Arif said.

“In a road known locally as al-Husayn, Palestinian residents are not allowed to walk on the asphalt and are forced to use dirt roads,” Jabir told Ma’an.

Israeli military patrols and surveillance cameras present on the street work to prevent Palestinian movement while Israeli settlers move freely through the area, which neighbors the illegal Kyrat Arba settlement, Jabir added.

Following documentation of restrictions placed in the area by Israeli forces since a wave of unrest swept the occupied Palestinian territory in October, B’Tselem said that the restrictions protect Israeli settlers in the area while punishing the greater Palestinian public.

While the Israeli army pledged following the declaration of the closed military zone in November to "continue to allow as normal a fabric of life as possible for all residents," B'Tselem said the statement was "a far cry from reality."

"There has been no 'normal fabric of life' in Hebron for many days, and the measures taken in the name of security are draconian and not dictated by reality," the group said at the time.

Palestinian PM Rami Hamdallah last month called for the presence of Palestinian security forces in areas of Hebron in order to provide "security and protection" for Palestinians, but the call has yet to come to fruition.
 

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