For one who knows the reality in Hebron, it is easy to understand what happened late last week, when the Israeli army killed 17 year old Mohammed Salaymeh and injured some 90 Palestinian protesters, two of whom remain in critical condition.
With Israelis from Hebron's Tel Rumeida settlement looking on from above, Israeli soldiers arrest two Palestinians and an international volunteer; settlements necessarily engender human rights violations (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler)
In Hebron and particularly its downtown area, 50 thousand Palestinians live with 500 Israeli settlers scattered throughout five small settlements in the heart of the city, guarded by 2,000 soldiers and facing dozens of checkpoints, iron gates and military centres covering almost all areas of the downtown.
Walking through the downtown of Hebron, you feel trapped in a military zone. This is the ongoing situation which creates countless reasons for clashes, such as occurred when Mohammed Salaymeh lost his life on December 11 because he took out a plastic pistol, one of the many things he bought for the celebration of his birthday.
A female soldier opened fire on Salaymeh as he was walking home. She feared the plastic pistol was real and perhaps he would harm the soldiers stationed round the clock near the Ibrahimi Mosque. A Palestinian is killed because of the feeling he is danger to the soldiers. Yet the main question here is why the soldiers are present in these civilian neighbourhoods, thus creating the situation for such events that have happened many times. Why are 500 settlers living in the Palestinian city of Hebron, controlling the lives of 50 thousand of Palestinians and causing of daily violations of human rights under the soldiers’ indifferent gaze? Such a clear violation of the Geneva Convention, which amongst other things requires the occupying power to provide security for all residents in the occupied area and to not settle its population in the occupied territory. Yet this is the situation of Hebron.
In a city like Hebron incidents such as the killing of Mohammed Salaymeh are expected all of the time, because of this reality and Israel’s settlement project.