Palestine Monitor:la citta’ di Hebron

Iniziamo oggi una serie di approfondimenti sulla città di Hebron, la piu’ grande della Palestina con i suoi 150.000 abitanti (500.000 in tutto il distretto), intorno ad una enclave di 500 coloni israeliani difesi da circa 2000 soldati della stella di David.Gli approfondimenti sono a cura di Hisham Sarsour, giornalista di Radio El-Hurria (english)
A cura di H.Sarsour

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The activity of the settlers and the army in the H-2 area of Hebron is
creating an irreversible situation. In a sense, cleansing is being
carried out. In other words, if the situation continues for another few
years, the result will be that no Palestinians will remain there. It is
a miracle they have managed to remain there until now.”

This view of the situation in the Israeli-controlled area of Hebron
comes from Jan Kristensen, the former head of the Temporary
International Presence in Hebron (TIPH), who completed his one-year term
of office last week. Kristensen, 58, is a former lieutenant colonel in
the Norwegian army and has also held v! arious positions in UNIFIL (the
United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon).

H-2, the 4.3 square kilometers of Hebron assigned to Israeli control by
the Hebron Agreement, contains all of the city’s Jewish settlers. When
the intifada began, it had 35,000 Palestinian residents. Kristensen had
no exact figures for how many Palestinians have since left but he said,
“more and more people are leaving the area and it is effectively being
emptied. The settlers’ activities, which are aimed at causing the
Palestinians to leave, and the army’s activities, which impose severe
restrictions, create an irreversible reality. Anyone whose economic
situation permits him to do so, leaves.

“There are roadblocks in the area all the time. Once there were more
than 100 days of continuous curfew, with only brief interruptions. The
markets are closed, the roads are closed, and if you’re a Palestinian
who does not appear on the lists, you c! an’t enter. The settlers go out
almost every night and attack those who live near them. They break
windows, cause damage and effectively force the Palestinians to leave
the area.

“I don’t see how this situation can change, and I see no possibility
that the IDF will once again open the area and enable the Palestinians
in it to lead normal lives. Personally, I don’t believe it is possible
for normal life to exist in Hebron between the communities, even if
there are agreements between the leaders.”

TIPH, originally established after Baruch Goldstein murdered 29 Muslim
worshipers in Hebron in 1994, is comprised of volunteer observers from
six countries – Norway, which runs the operation, Italy, Denmark,
Turkey, Sweden and Switzerland. Its annual budget is about $2 million,
not including the observers’ salaries, which are paid directly by their
governments.

The 71 unarmed observers patrol the city under an ag! reement between
Israel, the Palestinians and the other six nations concerned – the UN is
not involved. Almost no one in Hebron – not Israelis, Palestinians nor
international agencies – believe TIPH has done much good, yet inertia
has caused its mandate to be renewed every three months.

For its European sponsors, its main value lies in creating a precedent
for international observers in the territories. It was fear of such a
precedent that made Israel insist that neither the UN nor any other
international agency be involved.

“I ask myself all the time what we are doing in Hebron, but we are there
on the assumption that there are agreements between the parties, and as
far as I understand it, we change the situation,” Kristensen said.

“We succeeded in changing the army’s approach to curfews in the city and
to how to leave civilians outside the cycle of violence. I understand
why the commander of the [IDF’s] Heb! ron Brigade has to act – after all,
more than 30 suicide bombers have come from the city. But there is no
reason for a curfew on all the inhabitants. We also raised the matter of
house demolitions. To destroy a five- or six-story building and leave
more than 100 residents homeless because someone hid there is unjust and
unacceptable.

“I view our role as documenting events for the future. We transfer this
documentation to the countries that sent us … Residents of Palestinian
houses that are destroyed frequently ask us why we didn’t prevent the
destruction, and it’s hard to explain to them that we can’t intervene.”

Over the last year, TIPH has branched out into humanitarian activity,
such as transporting students and teachers to schools during curfews.
This has infuriated the settlers, and Kristensen said that settler
attacks on TIPH personnel rose 60 percent in July-December 2003 compared
to the first half of t! he year.

There have been “many hundreds of incidents,” he said, ranging from
spitting and cursing through blocked cars to being pelted with eggs and
stones.

The IDF Spokesman responded: “The unique and complicated situation in
Hebron, along with the activities of a murderous terror infrastructure
belonging to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, obliged the IDF to act vigorously
against terrorism in the city. The IDF’s activities, which followed a
series of deadly attacks deep inside Israel, admittedly caused harm and
unpleasantness to the civilian population. But even during this period,
the IDF enabled the orderly functioning of the education and health
systems and enabled movement for humanitarian purposes at all times.
Following the grave damage that the city’s terrorist organizations
suffered in 2002, the IDF changed its modus operandi in the city, which
significantly eased life for the Palestinian residents.”

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