More than a dozen Palestinians, including a baby, were injured over the weekend in the southern occupied West Bank city of Hebron, when tens of thousands of Jewish pilgrims descended on the city and many became violent.
According to local reports, extremist Israelis wreaked havoc on the city, verbally harassing and physically attacking Palestinian residents on their way to mark the occasion of “Chayei Sarah,” a portion of Torah reading that discusses the life of Abraham’s wife Sarah, who Jews believed is buried in the Ibrahimi Mosque (Tomb of Patriarchs) in Hebron’s Old City.
Groups of settlers reportedly hurled rocks at Palestinian homes and businesses, while others engaged in physical altercations with Palestinian bystanders.
Videos circulated on social media show settlers standing on the rooftops of Palestinian homes and harassing the residents below, while another video of an injured baby with blood dripping down his head went viral.
The one and a half year old child was reported to be the grandson of local activist Imad Abu Shamsiyeh, who told Mondoweiss that the boy was injured by a rock that a group of settlers threw into his home in the Old City.
“On Saturday afternoon a group of settlers surrounded my home and began calling me by name,” said Abu Shamsiyeh, who is well-known amongst the settlers for his role in filming and exposing Israeli soldier Elor Azaria for the killing of Abdel Fattah al-Sharif.
“They were threatening me, saying Azaria was going to come kill me,” he said, adding that some settlers climbed on his rooftop and continued to verbally harass him, while the others on the street began throwing stones at his home.
All the while, Abu Shamsiyeh recounted, Israeli soldiers looked on, and did nothing to stop the settlers.
“Even after my grandson was injured, the soldiers wouldn’t let us leave the house to take him to the hospital, and they wouldn’t let an ambulance or medics into the area to come help,” he said.
After almost half an hour, Abu Shamsiyeh’s children managed to get out of the house and get into a neighbor’s car to transport the baby to the hospital. But a group of settlers stopped them and pepper sprayed the adults, he said.
Haaretz cited an unnamed Israeli security source as confirming that “four Palestinians were sprayed with pepper spray and stones were thrown at a house” in the neighborhood of Tel Rumeida, where Abu Shamsiyeh lives.
Haaretz also reported that a group of settlers vandalized a number of Palestinian cars in the area, and quoted one Palestinian man as saying that four Israelis “sprayed tear gas into the eyes and mouth of his nine-year-old son.”
While Israeli media described the events of the weekend as “unusually violent,” and Israeli police characterized the attacks as “some incidents of friction and mutual attacks,” Palestinians in Hebron tell a much different story.
Abu Shamsiyeh stressed to Mondoweiss that the events of the weekend are not “unusual,” by any means.
“These kinds of large scale attacks happen every month,” he said, adding that smaller incidents of harassment and physical abuse on the part of the soldiers and settlers against Palestinians happens daily.
“This is the fourth attack of its kind just this month from the soldiers and settlers,” Abu Shamsiyeh said. “In Hebron, we are subject to the whim of the soldiers and settlers.”
Hebron has often been referred to by activists as a “microcosm” of the Israeli occupation.
Following the massacre in 1994, Hebron’s Old City was divided into Palestinian and Israeli-controlled areas, known as H1 and H2, the latter being home to some 800 Israeli settlers, a community known for its zealotry and defiance of Palestinian neighbors.
Some 40,000 Palestinians living in H2 are constantly surrounded by more than one thousand Israeli soldiers and 20 military checkpoints that restrict their every move.
The high concentration of armed Israeli soldiers and settlers has turned the city into a major flashpoint in the occupied West Bank, where human rights violations are a daily occurrence.