South Hebron Hills – confrontation between the army and the Civil Administration

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Smadar, Michal (repoting and photographing) and Muhammad; Translator: Natanya
בית אבו קביטה - מחמוד, סמדר ומוחמד ליד חסימת מעבר הצאן בגדר.

On the way to the settlement Matsadot Yehuda, we saw a civilian vehicle with soldiers patrolling along the road and the new roadblocks that were made recently. Also, an ATV of settlers with soldiers on it roams the area mainly to drive away shepherds who are trying, as they always did, to graze on their territories. We saw how a shepherd runs away when he only sees and hears the ATV.

In the distance, "bulldozers" are leveling new roads for the settlers. For now, it is not exactly clear, but we will continue to follow.

Today's shift was dedicated to the extended Abu Kbeita family after a call I received from Mahmoud describing the difficult and impossible routine they are experiencing now because of the war, and a video describing the situation is attached. All of them live in the middle of the half arc formed by the Beit Yatir settlement. Since this is their property, they are in the Israeli part of the Green Line and their status is permanent residency. But being Palestinians, they need all the services provided by the PA. And so, the children go to school in Imneinzel, meaning, they pass through a checkpoint on the Metsadot Yehuda side every day. They go to shopping and other services in Samu’ or Yatta and again, have to pass through the same checkpoint.

We went with Mahmoud to see the fence which the settlers had recently put on the opening that he used to pass with the sheep to graze on his land. He says that a week after 7.10, settlers wearing uniforms arrived at night and placed barbed wire at the entrance to the fence. From 1987 this area was open with the approval and documented agreement with an attorney and with the secretary of the settlement at the time, his name was Amos. And so, in this way, Mahmoud moved with his herd and grazed his territories until October 7.

According to him, those who did this were Bezalel Talia from the Talia farm, who has now received the power and authority from the authorities and a shepherd, Ziv, from Beit Yatir. They came in a gray van at night and set the barbed wire. He was of course afraid to go out to talk to them or take pictures. The permit he has, which is renewed every 4 years, granting him and his family free passage through the Methsadot Yehuda checkpoint, has also been revoked.

Now they are allowed to go only once a week for 4-5 hours. for all their needs: shopping, errands, permits, medical treatments. And if you are late by even five minutes, you are not allowed to return. Even worse, even in coordination with the director and assurances that everything is approved, the army piles up difficulties. Mahmoud's son says that one day he spoke with a representative of the military after the army prevented him from returning at the Yatta checkpoint. Inspite of a promise from the Civil Administrationinfo-icon that everything is OK, there was a debate with the army until they finally received permission They saw with their own eyes the disagreements between the authorities regarding their matter.

Mahmoud’s cousin who lives the neighbourhood arrived. He was released from prison two weeks ago. He was in prison because the settler complained that he had attacked him. Even though there were trustworthy witnesses who could testify that it was an accident, the military judge refused to listen and sent him to detention. There he was severely beaten until his hand was broken. Now he is in a cast as the result of an operation done after his release. He describes horrors from the prison: severe abuse of the detaineesinfo-icon, streams of blood in the corridors. He was released only after paying 60,000 NIS to a lawyer. It is not clear how only such a huge sum allows justice to be served. When he sits and tells, he says: We are now in the yard, in the air, in the sun, and I think about the people in prison who were arrested, even just what they are going through. He shows me pictures from the hospital of his severe hand injury from the violence of the guards and the picture of platinum that were put in his hand after the fracture was neglected and treated belatedly by Weeks.

I can't avoid comparisons...

M. goes on to tell about a difficult incident in which there was an actual confrontation between the IDF and the people of the administration. 14 days after 7.10, for the first time when the gatesinfo-icon were opened for them, after explicit coordination with Hazima, the officer of the administration. They were allowed to go out for a few hours and do some shopping. He accompanied them to the checkpoint to make sure they left, as agreed, for their errands. But when they approached Yatta, soldiers or those who identified themselves as soldiers, arrived. The Palestinians recognized that they were actually settlers. They threatened them with weapons, blocked their road and shouted: "We will kill you." They did not let them enter Yatta.

They called the police again. The officer, Hazima, arrived and an argument broke out between him and the "soldiers".

He said: "I approved and accompanied them and they can travel to buy food, etc."

And the settlers demanded and shouted that they lie on the ground and that they and their cars be searched.

They shouted at Hazima "Are you on their side or on our side"?

M. tells me: "We were scared and already wanted to give up and go home."

Finally, Hazima convinced the settler "soldiers" and they opened the blockade, moved aside and let the 6 family cars enter and buy everything they needed, for man and animals.

Hazima was waiting for them at the checkpoint.

At the end of the allotted 4 hours, they returned and he again accompanied them to see them safely home.

But recently Hazima left and then they feel that the permanent agreements they had with him are void, despite his signature as the representative of the Civil Administration.

They describe an unreasonable situation of having to get approval for everything when they need a solution to an immediate problem and have to wait days for an answer.

I called Lt. Col. Akram, who is in charge of the Hebron district, and he did not answer me, even though I had already had successful conversations with him concerning other families.

I will keep trying to talk to him.

The lords of the land, the settlers, threaten the law and order and with success it turns out. Even if only partially for now.

The State of Israel still does not understand what image and real damage is caused when such debates and disagreements are exposed in front of the Palestinians. Maybe the state also doesn't understand these actions brings us closer to opening a third front.

When the desperation and the difficulties of existence are increasing daily, to what deeds does it bring a population that is trying to survive and exist, despite the bad rulers in both governments. Maybe someone is actually aiming for this.