Israeli soldiers reportedly stand by during attack on the ‘Youth Against Settlements’ community center in the occupied city.
Israeli settlers attacked a group of Palestinians who were attempting to rebuild part of a local youth center in the occupied city of Hebron over the weekend, sending seven of them to the hospital with minor injuries.
On Saturday, according to eye witnesses, the settlers had demolished parts of a storage room being constructed at the home of local Palestinian activist Issa Amro, which also serves as a community center run by Youth Against Settlements. Amro filed a complaint with Israeli police against the settlers, who he says also tore off a metal gate from his neighbor’s house.
Hebron is home to around 500 radical Jewish settlers, living in the heart of a city that is home to over 160,000 Palestinians. Israeli soldiers are permanently stationed inside the city, implementing a system of segregated roads and creating daily friction with the Palestinian population.
On Monday night, Amro, several of his family members, and volunteers from Youth Against Settlements began rebuilding the walls settlers had demolished. While they were working, Israeli settlers showed up and began kicking the activists and throwing stones at them. The settlers were able to demolish what the Palestinians had built.
Amro and other eyewitnesses told +972 Magazine that Israeli soldiers and police officers who arrived on the scene did nothing to stop the attacks. Seven of the Palestinians were hospitalized, including one who had been bitten by a settler.
A video from the incident shows Amro confronting Hebron settler Anat Cohen, who was present during the attack and has a well-recorded history of attacking Palestinians and international activists in the city. When Amro asked one of the soldiers why he wasn’t doing anything to stop her, the video shows, the soldier responded that he was “against you (the Palestinians), not them (the settlers). They’re my people.”
An Israeli army spokesperson told +972 Magazine that while soldiers did receive a complaint that settlers had damaged the wall to Amro’s home, they were not able to verify that settlers had caused it. “The following day,” an emailed statement from the spokesperson continued, “the Palestinian blocked a path near his home. Settlers who arrived at the site broke through the blocked path. As a result, a confrontation ensued, and security forces separated between the two sides.”
On Wednesday, Amro went to an Israeli police station in a nearby settlement to file a complaint against the settlers, whom he had recognized. When he arrived, the officers told him that he himself was under investigation. One of the settlers had filed a complaint against him for assaulting and threatening her, as well as for illegal construction.
“This whole thing is proof that the police and the army are weak when it comes to stopping settler violence,” Amro told +972. “The soldiers are supposed to protect me and my property — not those who are trying to destroy it. The settlers get what they want.”
According to Amro, he had placed a makeshift fence outside his home in order to protect him from the settlers, which the soldiers removed on Wednesday morning. “I don’t feel safe in the house. I am afraid they will burn me alive like the Dawabshe family,” he said.
Amro and Youth Against Settlements are no strangers to settler attacks. In 2013, a kindergarten built by the group’s volunteers was vandalized with the words “Death to Arabs” spray-painted on it. In 2015, dozens of settlers in Hebron took over Amro’s front yard for an entire weekend. Israeli soldiers remained with the settlers for over 24 hours, guarding them as they slept, prayed, and ate — all the while blocking the entrance to the house.
Beyond recurring settler attacks, Amro is also facing the wrath of the Israeli army. He is currently on trial in Israeli military court for 18 charges, almost all relating to his political activity and nonviolent activism, some dating back to 2010. Amnesty International has said the charges “do not stand up to any scrutiny,” while U.S. lawmakers circulated a petition demanding the U.S. government urge Israel to reconsider the charges against Amro.
Hebron is home to one of the West Bank’s most radical settlements, and the only one established in the middle of an urban Palestinian population. Palestinians living in the area are routinely subject to restrictions on movement imposed by the Israeli army, which has pushed large numbers of residents to move out and shutter their businesses. Settler violence, too, has become routine. Over the years, abuse and harassment of Palestinians by settlers has become an everyday occurrence, including assault, stone-throwing, vandalism, theft, verbal abuse, and gunfire.