The city of Hebron, like the rest of Palestine, has been under Israeli military occupation since 1967. This occupation is characterised by its restriction of movement for Palestinians (as explained in a previous blog post) by Israeli settlers living in Palestinian land and houses (see ‘Welcome to Ghost Town’) and by the Israeli military making its presence felt in various ways. On a weekend trip to Hebron, I get a snapshot of what effect the occupation is having on the people living there.
On Fridays, the normal bustle of Hebron is muted as people
in this predominantly Muslim city go to pray. However, in the area near one of
the Israeli checkpoints, there are usually clashes between Palestinian youths
and Israeli soldiers. This Friday is no different, with Palestinians burning
tyres and throwing stones and Israeli soldiers firing sound bombs, tear gas and
rubber-coated steel bullets.
Military protection for Saturday morning prayers
On Saturday mornings, the route between the Israeli
settlements of Kiryat Arba and Giv’at Haavot at the edge of Hebron, and the
Cave of the Patriarchs synagogue in the centre, has a large military presence
to protect Jewish settlers going to pray. This route goes through Palestinian
areas, and there are sometimes violent clashes between soldiers and
Palestinians. But this morning is peaceful.
Saturday settlers tour
Every Saturday, Israeli settlers and their guests tour the souq (market), accompanied by a group of Israeli soldiers. The settlers sometimes damage products in the shops, with the Palestinian owners receiving no compensation or access to justice. But on this occasion there is no violence.
Military Incursion into the Old City
Israeli soldiers often enter Palestinian areas to arrest
Palestinians, or simply patrol the area. We happen to see a group of soldiers,
who are apparently investigating the alleged throwing of rice from a rooftop.
They force their way into a Palestinian building and question some of the
locals, before returning to their base.
Sunday shrine visit
Every few months, Israeli settlers visit the tomb of
Othniel, a Biblical figure, which is in a Palestinian area of Hebron. For this
visit, the Israeli military closes off part of the city to Palestinians,
forcibly removing people from the area. They reopen the area several hours