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‘Soldiers Expel Palestinians from Pool in Area A to Enable Settlers to Bathe Undisturbed’

http://www.btselem.org/south_hebron_hills/20150604_birkat_al_karmel

“On 7 April 2015, during Passover holidays, a group of hundreds of settlers accompanied by Israeli security forces came to Birkat al-Karmil – a natural pool close to the village of al-Karmil, which lies in the southern Hebron Hills within Area A. In 2011, Yatta Municipality renovated the site, creating a park there and restoring an ancient pool at its center.

B’Tselem’s investigation found that at about 2:00 P.M., hundreds of settlers arrived at the pool accompanied by dozens of soldiers, Border Police, and representatives of the Civil Administration (CA). The security forces ordered the Palestinian bathers to leave the pool and remain on the edge of the park. They allowed the settlers, however, free and exclusive use of the rest of the park. At about 5:30 P.M., the settlers and the security forces left the area.

“According to media reports, reveal that the settlers came to the pool on the initiative of the Susiya Tour and Study Center. In its publications, the center described the pool as the historical site of the Biblical settlement of Carmel and emphasized that the visit was authorized and accompanied by the military. The center reported that some 1,000 people had taken part in the tour, including Chief Military Rabbi Rafi Peretz, and that similar events have been held at the site for several years, particularly during the festivals of Sukkot and Passover.

According to testimonies collected by B’Tselem, when the settlers arrived at the pool there were almost 200 Palestinians there. Some were bathing in the pool, while others were relaxing in the park. Muhammad Mahaniyah, 20, a resident of Yatta, told B’Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhash that when the settlers arrived, accompanied by the security forces, he was bathing in the pool with friends:

A Border Police officer ordered me to get out of the water quickly. At first I refused and told him that I wanted to be in the pool and had a right to be there. I said that I had no problem with the settlers swimming along with me. He threatened to use force if I didn’t get out of the water quickly, so my friends and I had no choice but to get out. The soldiers ordered the Palestinians who were around the pool to move back to the edge of the park, to stay there, and not to approach the settlers.

Ibrahim Abu Tabikh, 15, from the village of al-Karmil, told Abu Hashhash:

At about two o’clock I went to swim in the pool, which is about 500 meters from my home. When I got there, I saw groups of settlers moving towards the pool. There were dozens of soldiers and Border Police officers with them. The settlers began to undress and jump into the water. I also jumped in with my brother Muhammad, 16, and we began to swim. The settlers complained about our being in the pool and three young settlers started swimming towards us. Some soldiers intervened and asked them to move away from us. After they swam away, one of the soldiers ordered us to get out of the water. I refused and stood by the edge of the pool. Another soldier came up to me, pointed his gun at me, and shouted at me to get out of the water quickly. Muhammad and I got out of the water because I was afraid of the soldiers. As I got out, dozens of Palestinian residents around the pool shouted slogans against the settlers being there. The soldiers moved the residents away from the pool to the northern section of the park and prevented them from wandering around the park. In the meantime the settlers continued to swim while the soldiers guarded them. I stayed in the park until the settlers left at about half past five.

During the incident, the mayor of Yatta came to the pool and protested to the CA representatives who were with the settlers. One representative informed him that the visit had been coordinated with the Palestinian DCO. B’Tselem contacted representatives of the Palestinian DCO, who denied any coordination and claimed they had submitted an official complaint to the Israeli DCO. In fact, whether the visit was coordinated is immaterial, as the Palestinian DCO is not free to refuse such requests by Israeli security forces.

This incident is yet another example of how Israeli authorities operate in the West Bank. Almost any desire expressed by settlers, however capricious, is automatically facilitated at the expense of the Palestinian population. In this case, the military used its force and authority solely in order to allow settlers the pleasure of bathing at that particular location. This purpose is unjustified in its own right, and certainly cannot justify the entry of soldiers into Area A or any disruption to Palestinians’ lives.

B’Tselem wrote to the IDF Spokesperson requesting a response to the incident, including a series of detailed questions. The IDF Spokesperson replied with a laconic response that offers no explanation for the authorities’ conduct in the incident.

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B’Tselem: Military appears to have served as security entourage for Hilltop Youth

“On the morning of Monday 6 January 2014, a group of masked settlers, coming from the direction of the settlement of Yitzhar, arrived at the village of ‘Urif, near Nablus. They reached the eastern outskirts of the village, going to the construction site of a water reservoir being built with USAID funding. The settlers smashed the electricity meter and threw stones at the home of the Safadi family, adjacent to the construction site. They also threw stones at the school, located about 100 meters away. The settlers were accompanied by soldiers as well as by at least one armed settler equipped with a two-way radio, who is apparently one of the settlement’s security guards.

 

 

Usama Safadi, a local villager, filmed the incident and gave the footage to B’Tselem. The footage he shot shows settlers throwing stones, while soldiers stand beside them. The soldiers took no measures to arrest the settlers, to remove them from the area, or at the very least to put an end to the stone-throwing. Several students at the school threw stones back at the settlers and the soldiers fired teargas at the students. At that point, the teachers called the students into the school building to keep them away from the confrontation.

The incident lasted approximately 50 minutes, at which point the settlers left, heading in the direction of the settlement of Yitzhar. The footage of the settlers as they head up the hill shows them passing several vehicles parked on the slope: two military jeeps, a white jeep and a pickup truck, probably belonging to the settlement’s security personnel. Two of the settlers who took part in the assault are seen heading over to the security vehicle and one of them is then seen taking a jacket from the back of the pickup truck. Even at this point, there appears to be no attempt by the military to arrest the assailants, or even to learn their identity. Later, five soldiers are seen heading up from the village in the direction of the settlement.

The filmed record of the incident indicates that the soldiers acted with disregard to their duty to protect the Palestinians: they did not put an end to the violent acts they witnessed, responding only when Palestinians threw stones back at the settlers. The soldiers also do not seem to have made any attempt to identify the masked individuals or detain them until the police arrived on the scene, so they could be charged appropriately. To the best of B’Tselem’s knowledge, the soldiers did not provide the police with their own accounts of the incident.

The filmed record indicates that the military, which is required to defend Palestinians in the West Bank, in actual fact served as a security entourage for violent settlers. During the incident, the military backed the settlers in their assault on Palestinians and their property.

In light of the footage it received, B’Tselem plans to apply to the relevant authorities, demanding that an investigation of the incident be launched immediately. The investigation must examine the conduct of the soldiers and officers on-site during the incident, of the assailants and of the settlement’s security personnel. B’Tselem also plans to demand that all security forces serving on the ground be informed of their duty to protect the local Palestinian population and their property against such attacks.”

 

http://www.btselem.org/press_releases/20140108_settler_attack_in_urif

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