Hebron is the 2nd oldest city in the world, and the largest in the West Bank. Some 500,000 live in the district of Hebron, with 150,000 within the city. It is also a very holy site for Muslims, Christians, and Jews, containing the Mosque of Abraham. If the name of this mosque rings a bell, it is no wonder. In 1994, Baruch Goldstein entered the mosque, aided by the IDF (there is massive military presence and metal detectors before you enter the mosque and so there is no way he wasn't helped by the IDF) and opened fire with a machine gun, killing 29 and wounding 125. This mass-murderer is now revered by many Jewish settlers, to the extent that they build monuments to him. Jews are no longer allowed in, so I had to wait outside for the rest of my party, which was an interesting experience, 2 hours of rebuffing the attempts of soldiers to make small-talk with me whilst they waved their kalashnikovs at everyone.
Hebron is the only city in the West Bank where a settlement is built inside the city, as well as around it. This has allowed Israel to annexe much of downtown Hebron, and they are now building a series of roads to connect their settlement in the city with those outside. This will cut Hebron into 4, often separating families, and making it virtually impossible for Palestinians to live their day-to-day lives. The wall is also being extended into this area.
Settlement on the mountain. These will surround the city. In the West Bank, there are 2.5m Palestinians and only 250,000 settlers, yet the settlers use 82% of the water, often having swimming pools and sprinklers, simply to rub Palestinians' noses in this. Since the election of Hamas, Israel has also confiscated Hebron's tax revenues, meaning no money for water, roads, or those people employed by the municipality (Hebron has 9 MP's, all Hamas). Pleasingly, the vast majoirty in Hebron have refused to blame Hamas for this, focusing blame where it belongs, squarely on the heads of Israel, America and the EU.
Settlements further round the city. An IDF tower is in the background and will attack any Palestinians who attempt to enter this area.
The settler roads will cut through this area, demolishing homes and also a muslim cemetery.
Hebron houses probably the 500 most fanatical settlers in all of Palestine. 2,000 IDF troops guard them, based in the barracks in the centre of this picture.
Looking upwards from the streets of Hebron's old city (over 1500 years old). Settlers moved in above this, and threw rocks and rubbish down onto Palestinians as they walked. The mesh was installed to catch this, so you can see what has been chucked. Bear in mind that 30,000 Palestinians lived in the Old City until it came under 2 year curfew following the start of the 2nd intifada. Now, thanks to the settlers, and the IDF forcibly closing most shops in the Old City, it is a virtual ghosttown - most traders having been forced to relocate to the city centre or leave altogether. To explain, following Oslo Hebron was divided into two areas, H1, comprising 80% of Hebron and under full Palestinian control; and H2, 20% of the city which falls under full Israeli military control. Before the current intifada, 450 extremist settlers lived among 30,000 Palestinians in H2. However, because of nearly two years of continuous military curfew for the Palestinian residents of H2 during the current intifada, many residents of Hebron’s Old City moved, leaving just a few thousand Palestinian residents in H2.
These steps are in the Tel Rumeida area, in H2. Tel Rumeida is located on a hill, with Beit Haddaseh settlement at its base and the Tel Rumeida settlement at the peak. The paved roads surrounding the neighborhood are frequently off-limits to the Palestinian families, who can be prohibited even from walking or playing in the streets. Palestinian vehicular traffic in Tel Rumeida is forbidden, forcing all the Palestinian Tel Rumeida families to park their vehicles outside the neighborhood and walk home. Consequently, Palestinian residents must carry all their groceries, appliances, and furniture to their homes. Every day these steps are used by Palestinain children on their way to school, and every day they are stoned by the 50 settlers living across the road as soldiers watch on (I'll upload film of this when I figure out how to). Settlers also regularly enter and vandalise the Palestinian homes, shooting, smashing their windows, and burning the olive trees. IDF has taken over several houses, evicting families, to use them as outposts. The settlers want to force out all Palestinians so they can appropriate their homes and land. Some of the Palestinian families in Tel Rumeida are only able to access their homes by climbing through fields, over walls, under trees, and up rickety ladders. Even then, settlers sometimes wait to stone them as they climb to their homes. The stress of this frequently causes Palestinian women to miscarry. Please do not view the following images if you are easily offended:
Graffitti inside an abandoned house in Tel Rumeida. The logo is that of a Jewish nazi group.
Olive tree, torched by settlers. As Palestinians are not allowed to bring vehicles, they could not bring a fire engine, and the fire had to be put out by using buckets of water. Bear in mind that it is not unusual for water to be literally cut-off for 2 months - and how catastrophic that would be for all Palestinians in the area had the fire spread as a result.
Olive grove, main source of income for a family, torched by settlers.