Hebron District and its 750,000 residents under third day of closure

Hebron District and its 750,000 residents under third day of closure: increasing reports of property damage in arrest raids. As part of the efforts to locate the three abducted yeshiva students, stringent travel restrictions were imposed on the Palestinian residents of Hebron District. The restrictions went into effect on Saturday (June 14) and were stepped up the next day: The military blocked all main entrances to the city of Hebron and stationed troops at other entrances. Any Palestinian who wants to go through the entrance must undergo an inspection. Since Sunday (June 15), Tarqumya and Meitar Crossings have been closed to Hebron District Palestinians. Moreover, security forces do not allow Hebron District Palestinians with Israeli entry permits to go through any other checkpoints linking the West Bank and Israel. This amounts to collective punishment of many thousands of workers, each of whom has already undergone an individual security background check and who, regardless, may only enter Israel after going through security inspection. Security forces have imposed blanket travel restriction on male Hebron residents between the ages of 16 and 50, prohibiting them to cross over to Jordan via Allenby Bridge.

The closure around Hebron (Photo: Activestills)

The closure around Hebron (Photo: Activestills)

Israeli security forces are extensively combing the region around Hebron. Last night, soldiers blew up the front doors of several houses which they then entered as part of arrest raids. Nablus and its environs are also the target of arrest raids and searches. Several residents have reported that soldiers blew up doors to their homes and seriously damaged the property inside. The vast majority of reports are from Balata Refugee Camp where roughly 40 houses whose contents were damaged last night have been documented. We are currently examining reports of destruction in the village of Huwarah. Residents of Kafr Tel reported that on the night of 16 June soldiers searched homes and brought about 30 residents to the village school. The residents then underwent questioning in one of the classrooms. The soldiers handcuffed one of the residents they detained and took him over to the settlement of Havat Gilad. He was released only five hours later. As of Sunday, the Israeli security authorities have barred family visits to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons. This measure imposed on all prisoners and their families is unlawful collective punishment.

Security forces have extensive operational powers to achieve the rightful and essential objective of finding the abducted teens. Yet these powers are not unlimited, and not all measures are lawful. For instance, the authorities cannot impose blanket, open-ended travel restrictions on the hundreds of thousands residents of Hebron District. The media has reported that approximately 200 Palestinian have been taken into custody to date. B’Tselem called on security forces to uphold the rights of the detainees throughout, from the very moment of detention. B’Tselem also calls on them to refrain from abuse and torture – which are absolutely prohibited under international law – in the course of interrogation, irrespective of the circumstances.

There is growing concern that security forces will adopt further measures whose object is to harm and pressure the Palestinian population. This grave concern is increasing in view of certain statements made by politicians as well as in view of further measures proposed by security establishment officials. B’Tselem calls on the Israeli authorities to refrain from adopting measures which violate human rights and breach international law, and to take only lawful action in the search for the abductees.

B’Tselem shares the great concern and worry over the fate of the three abducted yeshiva students, two of them minors. B’Tselem also shares the fervent hope that the three teens will be returned safe and sound to their homes. B’Tselem reiterates its position that any deliberate attack against civilians is absolutely prohibited. Those currently holding the teens must release them without delay.

Along with the efforts by the Israeli security forces to exhaust all possible avenues of investigation in order to locate the abducted youths and bring them safely home, the authorities must adopt every possible measure at their disposal to uphold human rights. Israeli authorities must also refrain from meting out collective punishment to the local population. Likewise, the security forces must take whatever steps necessary to prevent any violence directed at Palestinians.