An employee of the the government body that controls civilian affairs in the West Bank was recorded threatening a Palestinian who suffered trespassing by settlers at his residence, telling him that inviting journalists or activists would result in his family being removed from their residences.
During the phone conversation Ismail Mur, who is Palestinian, told the Civil Administration official that he was worried for his safety after settlers remained near his home for hours, despite being banned from the area. Yuval Abraham, a journalist working for the news site Sicha Mekomit, recorded the conversation.
The Civil Administration said the conversation was intended to explain to Mur that if there were disturbances at the location, the military could declare the area a closed military zone, which would ban residents from the area.
Ismail Mur belongs to a community of Palestinians who reside in caves they have turned into homes in the South Hebron Hills. They were expelled in 2001, but were allowed to return in 2011 by a High Court ruling. Settlers have harassed locals several times in recent years, despite a military decree barring Israelis from the area.
Three hundred olive trees were uprooted in August, and threats and harassment have become more frequent over the past few weeks. One recent video showed a settler standing at the entrance of a cave taunting residents, calling them “temporary” and vowing that “this will be ours, here.”
On Thursday evening, Mur contacted authorities to report that settlers had entered his residence and lit a bonfire. Another resident, Barakat Mur, said the settlers were armed and had dogs with them, and that they forced residents of one home to run away.
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Attorney Quamar Mishriqi said she and Barakat Mur had called police, the Civil Administration and the military throughout the evening, but that the only intervention from authorities was a military official who arrived by car and stayed at the scene in his vehicle for five minutes before leaving.
The following day, Ismail Mur received a call from the Civil Administration employee, who warned him that inviting journalists would be “looking for trouble.” A few minutes later, Mur called the employee back to ask why he shouldn’t do so.
In the taped conversation, Mur told the Civil Administration employee that residents were afraid settlers would assault them. The employee assured him that no settler would enter his house, “but if you invite journalists, if you bring solidarity activists there, if a lot of people go there, I will expel you from the area.”
Despite the official’s assurances, settlers did come to the area on Friday. In a video taken by a resident, a settler says that they would bring a tent and refuse to move until the Palestinians were gone.
The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, which oversees the Civil Administration, said of the incident that the employee had been explaining that he should prevent any gathering of people that could lead to friction in light of recent incidents, as disturbances could force them to declare the area a closed military zone.