Palestinian families harassed in South Hebron

By agency reporter
November 18, 2009

Israeli settlers in the South Hebron Hills of the West Bank harassed a Palestinian family walking home, then beat and robbed two internationals who accompanied them.

The two young parents and their three small children were returning from the nearby city of Yatta to their home village of Tuba. At 11am they encountered two members of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) just south of the village of At-Tuwani.

After the peace workers warned the Palestinians about the settlers seen earlier in the morning, the family chose a longer path toward Tuba, accompanied by the CPT members.

As the group crossed Mashakha Hill, they saw four settler men on a ridge 50 metres above them, reports CPT.

The settlers ran toward the Palestinians and began to circle them. A fifth settler, masked and hooded, appeared from the valley below. When the Palestinian man told them he was only trying to walk home, a settler pushed him.

As the CPT workers attempted to step between the Palestinians and settlers, the settlers pushed them to the ground, hit and kicked them, and stole their two video cameras. The settlers then walked to the illegal settlement outpost of Havot Ma’on (Hill 833), where they disappeared among the trees 20 minutes later. The Palestinian family reached their home safely.

For decades, residents of Tuba Village had a direct road to the village of At-Tuwani, and onward to the regional economic hub of Yatta. The Israeli settlement of Ma’on and its neighbouring illegal outpost of Havat Ma’on were built directly on that road, blocking all Palestinian traffic and forcing villagers onto long dirt paths through the hills, adding as much as two hours to a journey.

Christian Peacemaker Teams has maintained a continuous full-time presence in At-Tuwani since 2005, supporting Palestinian freedom of movement under the threat of settler violence. CPT places trained volunteers in locations of violent conflict around the world at the invitation of local peacemakers.

According to the Geneva Conventions, the International Court of Justice in the Hague and numerous United Nations resolutions, all Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal. Most settlement outposts are considered illegal under Israeli law.

Nearly 500,000 Israelis now live in more than 100 settlements built on occupied territory in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

This evening the United States has voiced its "dismay" over Israel's approval of 900 additional housing units at a Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the move will make it "more difficult" to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

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