When the protest reached the Beit Romano settlement checkpoint, Israeli soldiers shot tear gas and stun grenades at demonstrators.
Israeli forces also physically assaulted some protesters and arrested 12 Israeli activists for entering territory under the control of the Palestinian Authority. All of the arrested activists were released later that day.
The demonstration was held on the 22nd anniversary of the Ibrahimi Mosque Massacre to oppose the intensification of Israeli occupation in the years since the massacre.
Demonstrators rallied around the issue of illegal settlements in Hebron. Today, approximately 500 settlers live in five small outposts in the heart of Hebron with the protection of hundreds of Israeli soldiers. The presence of settlers and their soldiers makes life extremely dangerous for the over 200,000 Palestinians living in Hebron.
The demonstration also called attention to the fact that life for Palestinians in Hebron has only deteriorated since current Intifada began in October 2015.
In November 2015, Israeli authorities declared the Tel Rumeida neighborhood and al-Shuhada Street in downtown Hebron a “closed military zone.” The order forbids Palestinians who do not live in the area from entering it and requires those who do to register with the army.
International human rights organizations are also barred by the order from accessing the area. A lack of human rights monitoring is especially concerning now, as Israeli forces have shot 19 Palestinians, many of them children, in the besieged area since October 2015.
To frame Hebron as a microcosm of Israeli occupation, organizers of the demonstration emphasized the inseparability of Palestinians’ struggle in Hebron to the struggle of all Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.
Photo: Hebron Defense Committee
Politician, activist, and Hebron resident Fahmi Shaheen described the demonstration as a welcome example of joint Palestinian-Israeli action against the occupation. Joint action, he told the AIC, sends “a strong message that there is an alternative path for both societies, built on respecting people’s rights, struggling against the occupation, against settlements, and against the settler aggressions that are covered up and supported by occupation authorities.”
Shaheen emphasized that supporting joint struggle is critical to counteract Israel’s attempts to quell the current upsurge of resistance against Israeli occupation.
Ahmad Jaradat is coordinator of the social movements project at the Alternative Information Center (AIC)