Saturday, September 23, 2017

Innocent Palestinians punished as lethal violence flares in Hebron


By Matt Matthews - September 22, 2016
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Section: [Main News] [In Pictures] [Features]
Tags: [Hebron] [Israeli army] [IDF]

Following a spate of lethal clashes between the Israeli Forces and Palestinian youths, innocent civilians are being denied the right to work, leave their home villages or retrieve the bodies of their dead children.

At least 230 Palestinians and 32 Israelis have died in internecine conflict since unrest began to rumble across the West Bank in October 2015. The Israeli army has allegedly been operating a lethal shoot-to-kill policy, executing crudely-armed Palestinian assailants on the spot.

In the Hebron area alone, seven Palestinians have been killed in the last five days, including two in the beleaguered village of Bani Naim.

Local student Issa Salem Mahmoud Tarayra, 16, was shot to death on September 20, following a failed knife attack on an Israeli soldier.

Speaking to the Palestine Monitor in the hours following his son’s death, his father Salem said: “it’s a systematic strategy they are following, to kill us one by one.”


Salem Tarayra says the whole of Bani Naim is being punished for his son's actions

“Road closures and restrictions on movement are a punishment for all the people,” he added.

In punitive response to a handful of individual attacks, over the last ten months over 2,000 Bani Naim residents have had their right to work in Israel revoked, some on a temporary and some on a permanent basis. 

Collective punishment is a war crime, explicitly prohibited by the Geneva Convention on Human Rights.


An Israeli roadblock stopping Bani Naim villagers from leaving their home

These measures are supposed to prevent attacks on Israeli soldiers and inhabitants of illegal West Bank settlements. But they mean hundreds of innocent Palestinians are now reliant on dwindling savings and the kindness of neighbours to keep food on the table and their children in school.

Riad Tarayra, a merchant dealing in carpets and a father of seven, says he has been unable to work since losing his permit at the start of July.

“If a Palestinian has it in mind to do an attack, you won’t stop him by taking away his permit,” he told the Palestine Monitor. “They just create more chaos in the area, and so the situation gets worse.”

Even those few locals who manage to retain their work visas suffer under collective punishment in the aftermath of attacks.

Following a June stabbing, the village was besieged by the Israeli Forces for over a month. And in the wake of recent violence, Bani Naim is being hemmed in once again.

In the time it took to conduct these interviews, the Israelis dumped a new rubble blockade on the main road out of the village.

“They are ready to destroy the whole economy here in Palestine,” motor trader Rahi Abu Sneineh said, gazing out of Bani Naim down a road freshly obstructed by concrete blocks and mounds of loose stone.
 


Local traders find the Hebron road freshly blocked by the Israeli Forces


According to Abu Sneineh, the 15-minute drive to Hebron can take up to five hours when Israeli blockades are in place, making business all but impossible.

The bodies of dead Palestinians are also used to punish the community for the crimes of individuals.

Abdullah al-Khoddour told the Palestine Monitor his son Mousa was hoping to become a vet after acing his final school exams.

On September 16, a day seemingly “like any other Friday,” 18-year-old Mousa left home and rammed a car into two Israeli soldiers. He was shot dead on the spot.

Al-Khoddour sees his son’s action as part of an Israeli-mandated cycle of punishment and reprisal, with restrictions applied after Palestinian attacks only leading to more frustration and violence.

“It’s normal for any Muslim who sees other Muslims being killed and tortured to respond like this,” he admitted.


Mousa al-Khoddour's grieving family at his home in Bani Naim


After being kicked about by Israeli soldiers as it lay in the road, Mousa’s body was taken away the Israeli Forces. “The way they treated his dead body was belittling, humiliating,” his father said.

The past year has seen the Israeli government repeatedly refusing to release the bodies of slain Palestinians to their families, on the grounds this could constitute “incitement”.

But according to the grieving villagers of Bani Naim, Palestinian youths are far more likely to be “incited” by the collective punishment of their innocent compatriots.

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