Funeral of Mohammed Salayme
There’s been lots of unrest occurring around Hebron in recent weeks, including most notably the killing of 17-year-old Mohammed Salayme at a Hebron checkpoint a week ago, which has gotten international attention.
But Salayme’s killing on December 12 did not take place in a vacuum. While it can be viewed as an isolated event that just happened one day and as a result hostilities erupted, let’s take a closer look at the events surrounding Salayme’s brutal killing– roads and villages closed off by Israel’s military, journalists assaulted, Palestinian high Authority officials arrested– to better understand the climate in Hebron during this volatile period.
At the bottom of my list you will see a video posted by Times of Israel, a propaganda sheet for the Israeli government, over the weekend alleging to be Palestinian militants calling for a 3rd Initfada. It may well be in Israel’s interests to have an intifada. After all, Israel has always had an answer to Palestinian resistance in the occupied territories, and seems to prefer violence as the Palestinian response.
But my point today is not to come to any definitive conclusions. It is rather to use a timeline starting the week before Salayme’s death and use that week as a brief snapshot of life under occupation. This week will include a cast of characters as well as events one might easily construe as provocative in nature.
December 5-6. International Solidarity Movement reports: Clashes erupt in Hebron after Israeli forces provoke Palestinians in area H1
Clashes broke out in Hebron on Thursday [Dec.6] after a confrontation between Palestinian Authority police and Israeli Occupation Forces.
On Wednesday [Dec 5] there was a verbal confrontation between a Palestinian Police officer and the Israeli Army. The following day Israeli Forces spotted the Officer while they were on a patrol in area H1 (which is a Palestinian controlled area) and tried to arrest him in Bab Al-Zawiye. Palestinians who witnessed the scene intervened and the officer managed to avoid the unlawful arrest.
Some will recall that this event was caught on video, the video went viral, and led to former Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s outrageous slap-a-soldier and you die statement live on Israel Radio days later.
December 6: Israel’s military shot tear gas into the crowded streets of Hebron and chaos ensued. The military also used rubber coated steel bullets and percussion grenades on a civilian crowd of hundreds. According to the ISM:
The clashes continued for a few hours. Over 20 Palestinians were injured. Israeli Forces are supposed to stay in their controlled area of H2, where the illegal settlements are. However they are constantly encroaching into H1 which is controlled by the Palestinian Authority. While the soldiers patrol H1 streets they harass and provoke the local Palestinian population. These kind of patrols prevent any chance of a peaceful atmosphere in the city.
So, following from a verbal confrontation between Palestinian and Israeli authorities on December 5, Israel forces continue an encroachment on H1 the very next day, and a riot breaks out on the streets of Hebron, instigated by the presence of occupation forces in a region they allegedly have no authority.
As Ami Kaufman, reporting at +972 points out “Not one reporter asked what those soldiers were doing in the middle of Hebron.” Provocation.
December 8: Arrests of high PA officials.
The Jerusalem Post reported, on Saturday December 8th Israeli forces arrested 2 important PA intelligence officers in Hebron during an overnight raid.
Palestinian sources identified the two officers as Ahmed Bhais, 40, and Mohamed Abu Eid, 48.
Bhais is the director of operations at the PA’s General Intelligence Service in Hebron.
Abu Eid serves as commander of the PA General Intelligence Service in Yatta.
According to the sources, the two PA intelligence officers were responsible for the arrest of dozens of Hamas supporters in the Hebron area in the past few years.
IMEMC reports “more than 30 Israeli military vehicles” invaded the town during the raid. Was the arrest of two high PA officials related to the confrontations between Palestinian Authority police and Israeli forces in Hebron 2 days before? Israeli soldiers appear to be provoking Palestinians inside areas that are the supposed purview of the Palestinian Authority.
Along with direct challenges and arrests of Palestinian Authority officials, you have to consider the timing. These provocations seem aimed at sowing discord inside the Palestinian community at a time when Fatah and Hamas are trying to work out a unification deal and rallies approved by the PA celebrating Hamas’s 25 Anniversary are taking place is cities all across the West Bank, including Hebron (on Dec. 14). Note that Israel arrested the very PA officials who had previously been arresting Hamas members in the Hebron area.
The official Israeli media reflect Israeli fears about unification. On December 9, Israel’s Channel 10 TV showed video under the headline, “Third Intifada?” and the next day Times of Israel reports In Israel, fears of a new Palestinian uprising. And as for the Prime Minister, Netanyahu said “To my regret, he [Abbas] strives for unity with .. Hamas ”.”
We have seen this pattern before. Earlier this year after Fatah and Hamas agreed to establish a unity government, Israeli troops arrested the elected head of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Dr. Aziz Dweik for no apparent reason, along with two other legislators.
December 10: Rightwing Israelis backlash against supposed curbs on soldiers.
The Times of Israel reports that Israeli political officials, responding to another video gone viral, state soldiers “should not be subject to restrictions in their response to demonstrators”, ”soldiers should make maximal use of all weapons at their disposal”and “troops…hands were tied by superiors.”
December 11: The next day on its Facebook page, the rightwing group Im Tirzu posts an alarmist cartoon about soldiers facing “emasculation” from human rights groups and the European Union.
December 11: Israeli army raids three civil society offices in West Bank at 1 a.m. Two of those offices were Addameer, the prisoner support NGO. This wasn’t in Hebron; but many of the prisoners they support are from Hebron. The raid follows an Addameer statement that it is “deeply concerned about the growing number of arrests of children in recent months.”
December 12: Israel raids several towns around Hebron, firing tear gas and acoustic bullets. Scores of Palestinians were injured. One of those towns was Yatta, the hometown of the 2 Palestinian Intelligence officers who were previously arrested.
In Yatta, meanwhile, Israeli military vehicles prowled the streets for about three hours before leaving. There were no reports of any incidents even though the incursion was a blatant violation of an area governed by the Palestinian Authority. Local community activists said that such actions are done deliberately by the Israelis in order to provoke an angry reaction.
December 12: Palestinians in Hebron rally in support of hunger strikers locked in Israeli prisons.
December 12: In our Roots of Resistance series, Dr. Mustafa Barghouti warns that Israeli repression reminiscent of the first intifada may provoke a new uprising.
Yesterday, two Israeli ministers initiated a request within the Knesset that, if approved, would permit the Israeli army the right to use live ammunition against Palestinian civilian demonstrators.
December 12: At about 7:30 p.m., 17-year-old Muhammad Salayme was killed by an Israeli soldier at a checkpoint.
After Salayme’s death, hostilities erupted, arrests were made, many people were injured. Raids included arrests against many previously released prisoners. Roads were blocked to many neighborhoods of Hebron as well as surrounding areas.
Had Salayme’s killing not occurred, it is likely that these actions, night raids, and arrests would have taken place anyway. As Popular Committee Coordinator Rateb al-Jabour noted, Israeli forces had “recently increased activity in south Hebron particularly targeting former members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.”
The question arises, Are Israelis arresting people in preparation for an uprising that they themselves are pushing? This video, shot December 13 on the streets of Hebron, recorded events the day after Salayme’s death:
The presence of the Israeli military on the streets of Hebron, recorded the day of Salayme’s funeral, with unrest in which over 90 were injured, is an extension of exactly the same kinds of actions that were taking place in the days prior to his death. A continuum of events– though Salayme’s death is a defining moment.
As an occupier, Israel has always been more comfortable with Palestinian violence than with political resistance. You may recall the admission, they don’t do Gandhi very well. Israel can violently put down Palestinian resistance– and then denounce said resistance as terrorism in the eyes of the world. Israel sees non violent resistance as a threat, political resistance as a threat, Palestinian unification as a threat, and Palestinian independence as a threat. And they certainly view Palestinian sovereignty as a threat.
The fact that Israel Hayom, a leading propaganda sheet for the Israeli government, is now warning about a third Intifida in Hebron is merely the latest evidence that Israel would prefer violent resistance to the occupation and the continued illegal land-grabs of Palestinians land.
When Lieberman calls for Israeli troops to respond with lethal fire “when attacked” by PA police, when politicians call for legislation to increase the lethality of already deadly ammunition to use against civilians, when arrests of potential resistance fighters are on the rise, watch out.
Then there is this video that came out Saturday, calling for a third Initada. Now, allegedly, some Palestinians militants from Hebron are calling for that Intifada ‘if Israel continues to make arrests in the West Bank’.
And amazingly, the Palestinian militants supposedly tie this message to the UN status upgrade of Nov. 29 that has so upset Israel. Wonders never cease.
According to Ynet News, the men announced in Arabic that they support the recent UN recognition of the Palestinian National Authority as an observer state, but add that more remains to be done — a conquest of “all of Palestine, from the sea to the river,” in a third intifada spreading “from the heart of Hebron to all of Palestine.”
The men also reportedly said that if Israel continues to make arrests in the West Bank, they will kidnap IDF soldiers. They warned that if Israel were to kill Palestinians, they would retaliate “with an iron fist.”
Tying an alleged intifada from the river to the sea to the Palestinian UN upgrade would hardly seem relevant today– except that it excites Israeli fears about Palestinian resistance. But it falls into the pattern of the last 12 days: provocation. Whether it will result in an Intifada is anyone’s guess.