‘Lets take the stairs’: glimpse into the occupation in Hebron

Ben Ehrenreich.
London Review of Books.

For a glimpse into the nightmarish world of occupied Hebron read this report:

I was surprised a few weeks ago to find everyone I knew in Hebron feeling cheerful. Perhaps it was the weather. Four months had passed since my last visit to the city, the largest, and lately the bloodiest, in the West Bank. It was January then, and cold, and everyone had seemed distant and shacheckpoint palestineky, glassy-eyed with trauma. The previous November, most of the neighbourhood of Tel Rumeida had been declared a ‘closed military zone’, a convenient legalism that allows the Israeli army to exclude Palestinians – and journalists and foreign activists – from a predetermined area for a predetermined period. In this case the zone was a large one. Those who happened to live inside it were issued numbers and instructed to call them out each time they crossed through Checkpoint 56, at the base of Shuhada Street, where the section of Hebron inhabited by Israeli settlers is sealed off from the rest of the city. All through the winter, several Palestinians were being killed every week, sometimes a few a day, most of them in Hebron or the towns and villages surrounding it. Almost without exception, the Israeli press described the killings as incidents of terror: Palestinians armed with kitchen knives, scissors or screwdrivers shot while attacking – or apparently intending to attack – Israeli soldiers or civilians.

That wave of violence, which flared up most recently in Tel Aviv, began in Hebron on 22 September last year, when soldiers stopped an 18-year-old girl named Hadeel al-Hashlamoun at Checkpoint 56. She was standing three or four metres away from them when they shot her in the leg. She fell. One eyewitness told Amnesty International that she dropped a knife. Another said she never had one. Either way, her hands were empty when the soldiers shot her nine more times. By the time I arrived in January at least eight other Palestinians had been killed within a half-mile of that spot. February and March brought still more deaths, including the execution of 21-year-old Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, shot in the head as he lay unarmed and bleeding on the ground. That killing was caught on video, prompting the arrest of the soldier who delivered the fatal shot. The subsequent outpouring of public support for the arrested soldier was one of the factors that led Netanyahu to fire his hawkish minister of defence, Moshe Ya’alon, replacing him with the still more hawkish Avigdor Lieberman.

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