06/15/16 | International Solidarity Movement | al-Khalil Team

On 15th July 2016, a peaceful sit-in protest organized in demand of the opening of Qurtuba stairs, in occupied al-Khalil (Hebron), by Palestinians as well as Israeli and international activists, was violently broken up by Israeli forces, leaving one Palestinian child injured and 4 activists arrested.

The peaceful sit-in protest was organised by Youth Against Settlements, in coordination with the families denied access to their homes through the Qurtuba stairs. The stairs have been closed since 1st November 2015, when the whole area of Tel Rumeida and the tiny strip of Shuhada Street, still accessible to Palestinian pedestrians, was first declared a closed military zone (CMZ). Despite the lifting of the CMZ on 14th May 2016, many restrictions, applying to Palestinian residents only, remain in place.

When Israeli activists from Ta’ayush challenged this closure and demanded that it’ll be implemented equally and, thus, for settlers as well – who are free to use the stairs whenever and however they please, without ever even being stopped – more soldiers and settlers gathered. This closure evidently constitutes illegal collective punishment and is an apartheid measure – as it is exclusively applied to Palestinians, but not to Israeli settlers or soldiers. The deciding criterion, for whether or not the stairs are considered a CMZ for that specific person, is based solely on the ethnicity.

After a few minutes, Israeli forces ordered the Palestinian and international activists peacefully sitting on the side of Shuhada Street near the Qurtuba stairs to leave the area. Israeli forces thus ordered everyone to leave, claiming that they’re not residents, while the infamous and violent settler Ofer, living in the illegal Kiryat Arba settlement on the outskirts of al-Khalil was permitted to film and provoke the peaceful protestors, as was infamous female settler Tzippi.

Israeli forces eventually produced a CMZ order not only for the Qurtuba stairs, but for the whole of Shuhada Street and the Tel Rumeida neighborhood. Whether or not this means a return to the dehumanization of Palestinians who previously, during the CMZ, hd been degraded to a mere number, has yet to be seen.

Map of the closed military zone order Photo credit: Youth Against Settlements

Map of the closed military zone order
Photo credit: Youth Against Settlements

In the end, Israeli forces violently  detained 4 of the Israeli activists, aggressively pulling and dragging them from inside a Palestinian home. During this violent police action, Israeli forces squeezed a ten year old boy between the wall and a metal door, releasing him only once they had arrested the Israeli activists. The boy, Marwan Sharabati, now suffers from pain in his leg, and, at the moment, is not able to walk normally, limping instead.

Injured 10-year old

Injured 10-year old

This is just another example of Israeli forces’ impunity regarding violent behavior, and their continuous breaches of international humanitarian and human  law. While publicly advocating that they’re facilitating Palestinian movement during the holy month of Ramadan, Israeli policy makers and military forces are, instead, doing whatever they can to uphold, enforce and exacerbate not only Palestinian freedom of movement, but deny Palestinian rights on the grand scale.

At ISM official: Media Activists Needed in Palestine