Israel-Palestinian Territories

How Israeli settlers break into Palestinian homes in Hebron

Israeli settlers force open the doors of Palestinian homes in Hebron. Screengrab of video.
Israeli settlers force open the doors of Palestinian homes in Hebron. Screengrab of video.

A video that has been making the rounds on social media shows a group of Israeli settlers seizing Palestinian homes through force, under the protective eye of Israeli soldiers. Our Observer served in the Israeli Army in Hebron and later founded a group of dissident soldiers called “Breaking the Silence”. He told the Observers about what it was like to participate in these occupation operations.

#BREAKING Backed by Israeli soldiers, a group of ultra-orthodox settlers break into old homes in central Hebron, using force. Settlers reportedly took over the homes.

Posted by PNNEnglish on Thursday, January 21, 2016

Hebron is a Palestinian town located in the southern part of the West Bank. In 1967, a group of about a hundred religious Israeli Jews settled the centre of the old city near the Cave of the Patriarchs, a sacred site for both Jews and Muslims where the prophet Abraham is buried.

Now, the community of settlers has grown to 500 and they live in a neighbourhood under constant Israeli military protection. Despite facing both repressive restrictions and violence, some Palestinian families still live in this neighbourhood. The occupation of Palestinian homes is one well-documented form of violence.

“These operations are organised like military operations”

Yehuda Shaul served as a soldier in the West Bank. Now he denounces the activities carried out by the Israeli army in the Palestinian Territories.

This video was filmed on January 21, 2016. A group of Israeli settlers, protected by Israeli soldiers, seized two Palestinian homes in the old city of Hebron. The homes in question were large traditional homes located near the Cave of the Patriarch [Editor’s note: a sacred site for both Jews and Muslims where the prophet Abraham is buried. The monument built on this site holds both a mosque and a synagogue]. By seizing these homes, the settlers hoped to connect the Cave of the Patriarch to Tel Rumeida colony, where they live.

فيديو /// قطعان المستوطنين وجيش الاحتلال الاسرائيلي بقتحمو بيوت لعائلات قفيشه وزعتري في منطقه السهلة بجانب المحكمة الشرعيه رائد ابورميله وزميل محمود

Posted by ‎الصحفي رائد ابو رميله‎ on Thursday, January 21, 2016
Video filmed by Raed Abu Rumaileh, a Palestinian neighbour. He is part of the Camera Project run by the NGO Bet’selem, which gives citizens cameras in order to document human rights violations.

You can see how organised the settlers are. These operations are organised like military operations. Several of them break down the doors using crowbars. There weren’t any Palestinians around when they were breaking in, but, even if there had been, it’d be hard for them to respond under such circumstances.

Only the Israeli soldiers were there and they were protecting the settlers. They have to escort them everywhere.

The settlers filmed the scene for their own medias. They use footage like this to illustrate the myth of the Great Israel that is under construction [Editor’s note: Israelis who believe in the idea of the “Great Israel” want Israel to take over all of the Palestinian territories on religious and nationalist grounds. Israeli colonisation is used as a way to extend Israel’s influence outside of its internationally recognised borders].

"Les soldats israéliens sont là seulement pour protéger les 'habitants juifs d’Hébron'"

The two homes that were seized were empty. Their owners no longer lived there. More than 40% of Palestinian families have left the H2 zone [Editor’s note: In 1997, Hebron was divided into two zones, H1 and H2. The H1 zone is under Palestinian leadership while the H2 zone, where the Israeli settlers live, is under the authority of Israel]. The situation is very difficult for the Palestinians. There are multiple checkpoints within the zone, which restrict traffic.

Palestinians also have to face recurrent attacks by settlers, which amount to harassment. Unfortunately, the Israeli soldiers who witness these attacks do nothing because their stated mission is to protect “the Jewish residents of Hebron”. I know. I was a soldier, then a sergeant in Hebron during the second Intifada [Editor's note: The Second Intifada was the second Palestinian uprising against Israelis, between 2000 and 2005]. When a settler was aggressive towards a Palestinian, I protected the settler. I would have been going against orders if I protected the victim instead of the aggressor. The most I could do was to alert Israeli police. They have the right to intervene but do so very rarely. Many Palestinians prefer to leave rather than live in this kind of environment.

The settlers were evacuated by the Israeli police after the unlawful occupation of the Ministry of the Defence of Palestinian homes.

Source: Youth Against Settlements.

"Settlers often falsify ownership documents in order to seize goods"

These houses were empty but they still belonged to their owners. The Israeli settlers insist that they bought the homes. But I was told that the Palestinian owners said that wasn’t true. In fact, they could have lodged a complaint with the Israeli police on these grounds.

Unfortunately, this is common practice: settlers often forge documents if they want to seize goods. Israeli courts have ruled on numerous of these such cases.

Israeli settlers are required to go through the Defence Ministry before acquiring a property in the Occupied Territories, it is illegal if they don’t. That’s why the settlers who broke into Palestinian homes were later evacuated by the Israeli police even though they seized the homes alongside soldiers. It’s a paradox. As Israeli Jews, everything they do in Hebron is protected by the army even when it is illegal under Israeli law! It’s the police who intervene to enforce the law while the military stands by.

In order to get authorisation to occupy these homes, the settlers have to submit extensive paperwork for review by the Defence Minister.

Still, I’m sure that they’ll eventually get the go-ahead from higher ups and they will go right back into the homes once the minister validates their documents. In any case, the seizure of these homes fits in with the politics of the current government, which continues to promote the colonisation of the Palestinian territories. [Editor’s note: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his support for the settlers on January 24]

The settlers were evacuated by the Israeli police after the unlawful occupation of the ministry of the defence of Palestinian homes.

Source: Youth Against Settlements.