Armed Jewish settlers attacked Palestinians in two separate incidents after breaking into homes in the South Hebron Hills in the West Bank over the weekend.
The intruders said they were looking for stolen sheep, according to witnesses.
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The incidents occurred late Thursday night in the vicinity of Masafer Yatta, a collection of Palestinian hamlets in the area. According to witnesses, the intruders were still in the area on Friday afteroon looking for their sheep. At least one Palestinian said he phoned the Israel Police and claimed they never showed up.
The police confirmed receiving a report of stolen sheep followed by information that settlers were looking for the sheep in the area of the villages. They said they arrived at the scene and took a complaint from a Palestinian. They did not speak to anyone interviewed for this article, however.
On Saturday, the police arrested three settlers who had come to the village of Safai looking for their stolen sheep. According to the police, the three were arrested for attacking a policeman and interfering with a police officer in the line of duty.
Ali Jabareen of the small village of Khirbet Sha'ab al Butum said two settlers broke into his home at 1:30 A.M. on Friday. “We were sleeping and they came in and frightened my wife and children, asking where the sheep were. I said ‘how should we know?’”
Jabareen said one settler kicked him in the leg.“The children began screaming and didn’t understand what was going on," he recounted, adding that he had recognized one of the settlers as a shepherd named Yosef.
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Jabareen's brother Ismail said he saw the same settlers outside his own home. “I told them I had two children in the house and that they shouldn’t come in, that I would call the police.” A few minutes later, he called the police, who promised to contact him again a half hour later, he said. As of Saturday night, the police had not shown up.
Witnesses from the village of Khirbet al-Markaz said a group of settlers arrived there at around 4:30 A.M. Omar Hushyieh said he heard them shouting as if they were looking for someone.
“I work for Jews, so I thought someone had come looking for me and I went outside,” he said. Once he was outside, one of the intruders hit him in the mouth, breaking his tooth, and then hit him in the stomach with the butt of his pistol. “I bled a lot from my mouth,” he said.
Hushiyeh's mother, Samira, said she initially thought it was the Israeli army that had come to the village. When she tried going outside to her son, the intruders held the door closed from the outside and would not let her out.
Omar Hushiyeh said that the settlers did not permit him back into the house until 6:00 A.M., after they had finished searching for the sheep. Hushiyeh and his mother both said there were seven young intruders, some of whom were armed.
The settlers then searched the village of Fahit, raiding it twice – once at 8:00 A.M. when they searched sheep pens, and again at 3:30 P.M. when they broke into two homes owned by Ismail al-Adra. Adra said he tried to prevent them from entering the homes and that they left after 15 minutes. “Someone enters someone else’s home with a gun and there are no police? Who is going to take responsibility for this?” asked Nafez Amur, a witness.
Attorney Roni Pelli for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel immediately alerted the authorities about the incidents. “Last weekend, we were again witness to the total absence of law enforcement against settlers in the West Bank,” she claimed.
“There is no one who protects the Palestinian residents when they are attacked by settlers. The lack of action by the authorities actually permits this criminal behavior to occur. A full investigation needs to be conducted into these incidents in the South Hebron Hills and the perpetrators brought to justice.”