22 March 2011
On the morning of March 21st shortly after 7 am a Palestinian father of two from Tuba village was attacked and stabbed near the the illegal outpost of Havat Ma’on in the South Hebron Hills. Mahmoud Ibrahim Ali Awad, 32, was traveling by donkey from his home in Tuba to a medical appointment in the city of Yatta when a masked settler ran out of the illegal outpost of Havat Ma’on and attacked him with a knife. The assault was witnessed by a resident of Tuwani, who quickly called villagers and internationals and interrupted the attack. The assailant ran back into the illegal outpost of Havat Ma’on. Villagers recognized him as a settler who was involved in a riot in the village earlier that week. Awad was transported by ambulance to Alia Hospital in Hebron and remains there with stab wounds to his chest and right arm.
Two days earlier on March 19 settlers from the illegal outpost of Havat Ma’on rioted near Tuwani in response to the planting of 25 olive trees in Palestinian olive groves there. Israeli peace activists and internationals had joined with villagers to replace mature olive trees which were hacked and destroyed in the grove earlier this month.
Shortly after 9 am on the 19th approximately 25 settlers emerged from the illegal outpost of Havat Ma’on and moved among Palestinians who were grazing sheep and collecting herbs near the olive groves in Humra valley and in nearby Khoruba valley and on Khoruba hill. The settlers, several of whom were masked, shoved and kicked the villagers and their sheep and also internationals and Israeli peace activists who had come to assist in replanting the damaged olive trees.
Israeli soldiers and border police declared the area a closed military zone and discharged two percussion grenades in an attempt to force villagers to leave the area. Two Palestinian men were arrested and one elderly man, Fadil Ahmed Raba’i collapsed from respiratory distress and lost consciousness after soldiers pushed him to the ground and forcibly restrained him. Soldiers refused to allow the ambulance direct access and instead required the driver to take a detour resulting in a 45 minute wait. Raba’i was transported to a hospital in the city of Yatta and released later that day. Two Palestinian men were arrested by border police and remain in custody. Israeli soldiers and border police did not arrest or detain settlers.
Pictures of the incident are available at:
Sadly, villagers think these events may have been triggered in part by the recent killing of a settler couple and their children in Itamar settlement near Nablus. No Palestinians have been charged or arrested and it now appears possible that the murders may have been committed by Thai workers who were angry because they had not been paid for their labor. Speaking about the six olive trees found damaged on March 16, Fadil Ahmed Raba’i stated, “They did this because of the settlers who were murdered near Nablus.”
Palestinians and internationals working in the West Bank have expressed concern over a recent rise in settler violence. The situation is further exacerbated by an absence of law enforcement in the region. According to the Israeli legal rights group Yesh-Din Israeli settlers are rarely charged with crimes committed against Palestinians, and if they are their cases are heard in civilian court, where they are provided with legal safeguards and protections. When Palestinians are charged their cases are heard in Israeli military courts, and they do not enjoy the same legal protections. Additionally it is extremely difficult for Palestinians to gain redress for crimes committed against them by settlers. According to a recent report by Yesh-Din, out of 642 monitored investigations of Palestinian complaints against settlers, 91 percent were closed without an indictment.
[Note: According to the Geneva Conventions, the International Court of Justice in the Hague, and numerous United Nations resolutions, all
Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal. Most settlement outposts are considered illegal under Israeli law.]