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Events in South Mt. Hebron Since the Outbreak of the War

October 14, 2023

At the request of supporters from abroad, we applied to friends of us, residents of south Mt. Hebron, and asked them to send reports about the current events in their places in the midst of the war in Gaza. Below is the detailed report sent to us. This report covers much of the events in the region between last Saturday and yesterday [October 7-13].

Dear friends,

I want to begin by expressing my gratitude for all the friends who have reached out to check on us during these difficult times. Your concern means the world to us.

The situation is very tragic and horrifying right now in all of Palestine, and what is happening in Gaza right now is unimaginable. On the small margin of that, here are some of what is happening in the region of South Hebron Hills. These were what I could record in a small geographical area, which we call South Hebron Hills and Masafer Yatta.

• On Saturday morning, precisely at 6 o’clock, things turned upside down as people awoke to the sound of explosions echoing from all directions. An unsettling sense of worry began to grip the population as it marked the onset of the ongoing war. By nearly 10 am, one of the rockets struck a mere 100 meters away from the village of Al Khirwah, situated to the east of Umm Al Khair. Following that, and shortly after the commencement of the war, settlements experienced an escalation in military security measures. This included settlers donning military uniforms and an increased military presence, leading to a tightening of daily life for the region’s residents. Many villages were closely tied to the ongoing circumstances. The proximity of the Carmel settlement to Umm Al Khair community, for example, has resulted in heightened security measures, with settlers and soldiers guarding the settlement fence vigilantly, sometimes pointing their weapons in people’s direction. This constant threat has left them feeling vulnerable and fearful of even accidental gunfire.

Continue:

• On Sunday, at least three people were injured due to shootings and attacks perpetrated by both the military and settlers. Soldiers at Susyiah military camp checkpoint shot towards the feet of [name withheld], where he was injured because of shrapnel from the bullets that were shot on the ground. The soldiers seemed to [terrorize] people, even though it would be a dangerous action and would hurt people. In the morning of that day, and as a collective punishment, the occupation military began an unsettling practice of obstructing all the roads in our region by indiscriminately heaping piles of [dirt] along their paths. This deliberate action has resulted in the disconnection of various communities, particularly impacting those residing in the remote corners of our region. The consequences of these roadblocks are far-reaching, as they hinder essential access to vital services and disrupt the daily lives of the affected residents, amplifying the isolation of those living in these remote areas. The situation has raised concerns and anxiety among the local population, as the communities grapple with the abrupt disruption of their connections and the uncertainty surrounding these military actions.

• Monday, the attack on [name withheld] in the village of Khalet Adabe was a distressing incident. [He] was merely trying to protect his community when a group of settlers attempted to forcefully enter it. In the ensuing confrontation, he was violently assaulted, resulting in a broken arm. Fortunately, he was swiftly transported to the hospital by a Palestinian ambulance. The departure of the settlers left a lingering sense of terror among the local families, highlighting the tensions and challenges faced by many in this region. We also witnessed a series of distressing incidents that unfolded, with multiple reports of individuals falling victim to violence. One particularly unsettling case involved a man from Khalet Al Maieh, who was pulled over by the military while driving his tractor on the highway. After being detained for two hours, his keys, cell phone, and ID were confiscated, and he was subjected to severe physical assault by the military and ended up in the police station for investigation. It didn’t stop with the military; settlers have also started deploying bulldozers to further restrict people’s movement, taking advantage of the situation. Near Atwaneh, Ajawaieh, Sadet Atha’la, and many other villages. In Sadet Atha’lah, for example, settlers opened fire on those who approached them while they were blocking the road to their village, fortunately without causing injuries. People are already grappling with harsh living conditions, including a shortage of basic necessities like food and medicine, which could worsen if the current situation continues the same. The future appears uncertain and filled with fear.

• On Tuesday, settlers in military uniforms invaded Umm Al Khair village and terrorized the residents. They temporarily detained, for more than an hour, the village’s youth for questioning, checked their IDs, confiscated their cell phones, and prevented anyone from documenting them. Afterward, they claimed that someone posed a security threat and was dangerously close to the settlement fence. [. . .] It’s difficult to fathom or even endure such an accusation, given that the Carmel settlement is located merely one meter from Umm Al Khair village. Before leaving the village, they issued a threat, warning that they would shoot anyone found in close proximity to the settlement fence. This situation has become even more distressing, especially after the events that transpired today.

On the same day, not far from Umm Al Khair, inside Maghaier Al Abeed village, located within the so-called Firing Zone 918, a violent attack was launched by settlers, causing terror among families and physical assaults. The [name withheld] family was the target of this attack, leaving [name withheld], his wife, and their young children injured, necessitating their immediate transfer to a hospital. They were transported to the hospital by a Palestinian ambulance since driving on the highway was restricted due to the blockade. This incident underscores the ongoing challenges faced by Palestinian communities in this region, with Israeli settlers exploiting the situation.

Furthermore, settlers, accompanied by the military, brought a bulldozer to raid Simri village in the Shib Al Botom area. They took advantage of the absence of residents and proceeded to demolish five houses and two substantial animal barns. This demolition is not just illegal; it represents a grave crime against Palestinians and exposes the extent of the actions taken by these malevolent settlers.

• Wednesday, in several other villages, including Susyiah, Atwaneh, Adirat, Umm Al Khair, Al Karmel, and Ajawaiah, people faced gunfire from either the military or settlers, fortunately escaping injury. However, near Atwaneh in a harrowing incident, a lone shepherd found himself in a perilous situation when a random military patrol, who were traveling in a private civil car, opened fire on the shepherd without warning. Tragically, two of his sheep lost their lives in the crossfire, while two others suffered injuries. Miraculously, the shepherd managed to escape the relentless gunfire, leaving his flock behind in a desperate bid for survival.

Susyiah village has been plagued by a series of distressing night raids conducted by both the military and settlers. These incursions, carried out under the guise of security operations, have involved meticulous searches of each household, leaving families separated and detained outside their homes. These unsettling events have occurred at least twice in the village, with the most recent incident taking place in the dawn of Wednesday, casting a shadow of fear and uncertainty over the community.

• On Thursday, the residents of Atwaneh village faced a distressing situation when settlers, dressed in military uniforms, encroached on the village and began uprooting olive trees that belonged to the local people. The situation escalated when the settlers established a military point near the homes of the people. When people attempted to protect their trees, the settlers started shooting directly at them. Fortunately, no one was injured in the gunfire, but the settlers chased them back to their homes. This prompted the people to stand their ground, as the settlers had entered their community and were posing a direct threat. In response, the settlers resorted to violence, assaulting anyone in their path. The [name withheld] family, for example, was subjected to this brutality, with [name withheld] suffering an arm injury. Other members of his family and neighbors also sustained various injuries. The ordeal left a lasting impact on the people, especially the children, who had to endure this terrifying experience.

Later in the afternoon, a military patrol intercepted two vehicles owned by Jinba residents, who were on their way to Yatta for essential supplies. The occupants were detained for several hours, leading to a disturbing outcome. Eventually, one car’s passengers were released but had their vehicle confiscated, while those in the other car were arrested, and their vehicle was taken. Their ultimate destination remains unknown, and it is suspected they may be held at a nearby military facility, restrained and blindfolded. In a separate unsettling incident, a man from Arifaieh was apprehended by the military merely for standing near the highway, even though his house was right beside it.

Not far from there, in the villages of Anajadah, Khashem Al-Daraj, and Khashem Al-Karm, an occupation military patrol was stopping cars on the road and confiscating their keys, leaving people stranded at the roadside. Some individuals had to call mechanics to assist in starting their cars so they could return home. Meanwhile, others anxiously awaited the return of the military patrol to retrieve their keys, but unfortunately, the patrol never returned.

• Friday today marked a grim turn of events in Atwaneh village, where [name withheld] was tragically shot by a settler as worshippers left the mosque following Jumah prayers. This shocking incident raises concerns about the deliberate targeting of innocent villagers. [name withheld], rushed to the hospital in a private vehicle, currently fights for his life in critical condition. The absence of an ambulance, a result of the military blockade imposed on Palestinians in the region, has only compounded this dire situation.

These alarming incidents paint a grim picture of the situation here, and it’s important to note that these are localized events. The broader situation is equally dire. What is happening is unlike anything before; nobody can predict what tomorrow may bring. There seem to be no openings for hope or a clear vision of tomorrow at this time. As the ordeal enters its second week, the people endure immense suffering, despite limited media coverage of these distressing events. It begs the question: How much longer must Palestinians endure before the world takes notice and acts?

In these times, we turn to our faith and pray to Allah for safety and peace. Our hearts are heavy, and we stand together in solidarity with those affected by these tragic events. Please keep the affected individuals and their families in your thoughts and prayers during these challenging times.

In solidarity.
[name withheld]

 


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