A report by two major Israeli civil rights organizations that was issued Sunday indicates that Palestinians abandoned more than 1,000 homes and at least 1,829 businesses in the center of Hebron due to pressure by the Israel Defense Forces, the police and Jewish settlers. Many of those referred to fled during the second intifada, beginning in September 2000.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and B'Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Civil Rights in the Occupied Territories, claim that a "policy of separation on a national basis" is being imposed in Hebron.
In areas of the city close to the settlers' neighborhoods, at least 1,014 residential units (41.9 percent of the total number of homes in the area) were abandoned by their residents. Of these, 659 (65 percent) were abandoned during the second intifada. In addition, 76.6 percent of the businesses were abandoned, 1,141 (62.4 percent) of them during the same period; at least 440 were closed by IDF order.
The report, which will be distributed to all MKs, claims that "the center of Hebron has become a ghost town because of an active Israeli policy" that includes preferential treatment of the settlers.
It states furthermore that the fabric of Palestinian life in Hebron has been badly damaged as a result of the severe restriction of movement imposed by the IDF on the city's Arab inhabitants, particularly since the outbreak of the second intifada. IDF policy prohibits Palestinians from walking or driving on the main streets of the city; the army also uses military orders to close Palestinian-owned business and prevents local authorities from enforcing the law against settlers who use violence against Palestinians and their property.
In addition, the organizations claim, there is a "routine of violence and harassment" on the part of the security forces against Palestinian residents. In the first three years of the intifada, curfews were imposed against those living in the center of Hebron on at least 377 days, often for days at a time, with short breaks in which those affected were allowed to stock up on provisions.
Among the violent means used by settlers against their Palestinian neighbors, the report cites physical assaults, blows, the use of sticks, rock-throwing, well-poisoning and the throwing of garbage. It refers to "methodical and often violent harassment" by settlers of Palestinians in the center of Hebron.
However, the report's authors also acknowledge that the settlers in Hebron and in Kiryat Arba also suffered during this period (and prior to it) from very serious attacks perpetrated by the Palestinian terror organizations, in which dozens of Israeli soldiers and civilians were killed.
ACRI and B'Tselem called on the state to allow Palestinians to return to their homes and businesses in Hebron and to allow enforcement of the law against violent settlers.
By press time, there was no response from the IDF to the report.
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