Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Palestinian residents in Tel Rumeida “live in a big jail”

By Marta Feirra - February 02, 2016
Section: [Main News] [IN PICTURES] [Features]
Tags: [Shuhada Street] [Hebron]

Photos by Marta Feirra.

Visitors to Tel Rumeida, in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron, have to take a muddy, steep
and narrow path that crosses Palestinian families’ backyards in the hilly neighbourhood.


They try to avoid the barbed wire and the slippery parts of the long and difficult footpath. The easiest way, a simple 2-minute walk from Bab a-Zawiya, the nearest checkpoint, is closed to non-residents.


Israeli forces declared the Tel Rumeida neighbourhood a closed military zone in November and implemented strict restrictions, following the increase in attacks against Israeli forces and settlers in the region. The new restrictions, described by the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem as “draconian” and a “collective punishment,” impose serious limitations on residents.


Tel Rumeida, on the western edge of Hebron, is part of the area of the city under Israeli control. Within it lies an archaeological site that some scholars believe to be the location of biblical Hebron, which makes it is one of the most contested residential areas in the West Bank.


Tel Rumeida - stars of David and Menorahs were spray-painted on concrete.


The new restrictions were designed to include only Palestinian residents who live in the area, excluding the adjacent Israeli settlements, which are considered illegal according to international law.  


Journalists and human rights workers are also often denied access to the neighbourhood, or have their movements restricted, while many activists face arrest.


“We live in a big jail. Then they arrest us and take us to a smaller jail, but it doesn’t matter anymore, it is part of our daily lives,” Badee Dwaik, a resident in the old city and one of the founders of the organisation Human Rights Defenders in Hebron, told the Palestine Monitor.


“We document human rights violations and support non-violent resistance to occupation,” Badee explained. He founded the organisation in 2014, along with the Shamsiyeh family and other residents of the old city.


Imad shows his family's passports. 'Denied’ reads the sticker on the back.


Imad Abu Shamsiyeh has been photographing and filming human rights abuses in the old city of Hebron for 18 years. He is a volunteer with the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem and every member of his family is trained to shoot videos. The family’s home became a center for the Human Rights Defenders group.


According to Imad, after the new restrictions were approved, his neighbourhood became a prison where only settlers and Israeli security forces are allowed to move freely. Palestinian residents have to undergo several rigorous inspections.


A system of numbers was also implemented, with each family living within the enclosed area given a number necessary to access the neighbourhood. “Sometimes they ask for our numbers, but it depends on the soldiers”, says Imad. “Other times, even if we give them our numbers they force us to stand against a wall just to humiliate us.”


Palestinian residents in Tel Rumeida were given numbers.


Imad lives in Tel Rumeida with his wife Fayzeh and his five children. Fayzeh is the only woman in the neighbourhood who actively films and documents human rights violations.


“Sometimes I take my camera and try to film and document our life here in Tel Rumeida,” she says. “I was attacked many times. I feel there is no safety here. We are strong but we fear for our children.”



Fayzeh shows some of the videos she filmed with her phone. In the video a Palestinian boy lies injured on the floor.


Last month, her 16-year-old son was shot in the checkpoint next to his house. “He was walking home with his friends”, says Fayzeh. “They started shooting at teenage boys. My son was shot in the feet and legs. He stayed in the hospital for nine days and went through two surgeries”.


“Once the settlers were hitting my son but the soldiers did nothing,” Imad adds. The stories of violence and harassment seem to be endless. Imad believes his family is targeted for actively documenting abuses in the neighbourhood. He had memory cards and a camera confiscated by Israeli forces.


“The settlers are constantly harassing residents in Tel Rumeida, but the Israeli army protects them”, says Muhanned Qafesha, a member of the local group Youth Against Settlements. The activist group has been staging a sit-in protest in front of checkpoint 56, at the entrance of Shuhada street in the Old City.


The new restrictions imposed by the Israeli army keep the activists from reaching their center in the Tel Rumeida neighbourhood. “They came many times to the center to arrest us,” says Muhanned. “A volunteer was in jail for eight days. They claimed he had a knife, which was not true. He was released because we have a good lawyer, but what about the people who

don’t?,” Muhanned asks.


A Finnish human rights monitor who prefers to remain anonymous says she faces restrictions of movement for being an international volunteer. “The restrictions are very random; sometimes we can stand in a place but not right next to it,” she says.


Volunteers also face harassment and physical violence from settlers in Tel Rumeida and around the old city of Hebron. “We had settlers throwing things at us and saying they wished our families would die,” says the volunteer.


“Children in the old city are always surrounded by soldiers. Seeing how scared they are is very sad. I didn’t grow up like this, I never saw a gun during my childhood”, she says. But she admires the families who insist in staying in their homes despite the military restrictions and constant harassment. “They face a lot of difficulties but they are so strong. They resist the occupation by staying in their houses.”

 Checkpoint 56 - A sit-in protest was organised by Youth Against Settlements.



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