Road to Khirbet Bir al-'Idd
Photo: Rabbi Arik Ascherman

Palestinians return home, harassed by settlers

Residents of Khirbet Bir al-'Idd in Hebron area forced to leave their homes 10 years ago following repeated attacks by settlers. Last week, families return with IDF approval but are harassed again

For 10 years, residents of the Palestinian village of Khirbet Bir al-'Idd in the Hebron area have been living with relatives for fear of being harassed by settlers. Last week, after receiving approval from the Israel Defense Forces, they returned to their homes, but say the attacks were renewed shortly afterwards.


Between the years 1999 and 2000, some 20 families living in the village were forced to evacuate themselves gradually due to repeated cases of harassment by settlers from the Mitzpe Yair outpost, who according to the Palestinians and their representatives in the Rabbis for Human Rights organization harassed them on a regular basis and prevented them from using the road leading to Khirbet Bir al-'Idd.


The Palestinians claimed that the army would turn a blind eye to the harassment, forcing the residents to leave the area. In recent years they turned to the rabbis' organization, which petitioned the High Court through Attorney Kamar Mishraki, demanding that the army allow them to return to the place they had left.


Following talks between the sides, Attorney Einav Golomb of the State Prosecutor's Office declared on May 2009 that the residents would be allowed to return to the village and that the road blocked by the settlers would be reopened.


The area's brigade commander decided to implement the decision, and four families returned to the village last Sunday. According to the Palestinians, however, they were assaulted by settlers on Thursday, one of their sheep was slaughtered and the residents were instructed to stop using the access road they had paved themselves.


'Brigade commander's decision torn'

The Palestinians claim that the settlers again blocked the road leading to the village and resumed their attacks on the residents. A Rabbis for Human Rights organization led by Rabbi Arik Ascherman visited the area on Monday.


Attorney Mishraki, who also arrived there, told Ynet that the settlers attacked and insulted the visitors in front of the soldiers.


"One of the settlers even took the brigade commander's decision, which orders the opening of the road, from Rabbi Ascherman's hands and tore it in front of soldiers. Another female settlers, who did not know that I was Arab, shouted at me, 'Would you agree to have your boys and girls grow up next to Arabs?'"


The lawyer noted that one of the residents suffering from the road being blocked was a woman in advanced pregnancy.


According to Mishraki, the fact that the road is closed prevent the Palestinians from getting water and running their everyday life. She added, "The army that confirmed that the evacuation was illegal and decided to bring back the residents must implement the decision and defend the residents, rather than treat them like a security threat. The law must be enforced against those harassing them."


The legal advisor of the settlement of Beit El, as well as a representative of the Civil Administration and the army, arrived in the area on Tuesday morning. one of the village's residents Haj Issa, told Ynet that the officials arrived following the renewed harassments in recent days.


"Three jeeps arrived at Khirbet and they are looking for alternative roads we could use. Living under this constant threat is impossible. I have a flock of sheep which must eat, but I can't go out and feed them because of the settlers' harassments. They are suggesting that we use an alternative road for now. We want to have free access and we want to be secured against the settlers."


Issa says that four families have returned so far, after residents of the Mitzpe Yair outpost drove away two families which sought to return on Monday. "All we are asking is to let us use the road and protect us," he added.


"It was meant to be a story with a happy ending," said Noga Eitan of Rabbis for Human Rights, "an unusual story in which the rule of law in the territories is being enforced. But like what happens in the territories often, as well as in places on which the Israeli court has delivered its ruling, people are acting like in a jungle here. We won't accept this, obviously."


פרסום ראשון: 11.17.09, 22:51
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