Settlers Control the Drones. The Israeli Army Then Pulls the Trigger

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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Israeli forces use tear gas to block Palestinians trying to reach their confiscated lands, during a protest in the village of Halhul, north of Hebron, January 4, 2021.
Israeli forces use tear gas to block Palestinians trying to reach their confiscated lands, during a protest in the village of Halhul, north of Hebron, January 4, 2021.Credit: Hazem Bader / AFP
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

The Israel Defense Forces and the Civil Administration are acting in the West Bank under the orders of the settlers. We’ve known that for a long time, but the generator incident on Friday indicates how quickly our forces respond to the directive of their commanders. It’s important to note that the settlers would not have become the army commanders without their subordinates – the government and the security apparatus – wanting them to command.

A few hours before an IDF soldier shot Harun Abu Aram, 24, who is now lying paralyzed, unconscious and ventilated in a Hebron hospital, a photography drone flew over the village of al-Rakeez, southeast of Yatta. We know that settlers had launched it around 9 A.M. on Friday, January 1 (Abu Aram’s birthday, as it happens). We know that its operators immediately reported something to the Civil Administration.

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What did they report? That those cheeky Palestinian criminals were insisting on living on their land? That they had put up a toilet stall or set down an old swing for the kids, or extended a water pipe? That they had topped some structure with a tin roof that hadn’t been there two weeks ago? These are extremely serious violations under the laws of the only Jewish state in the world, so long as those committing them are Palestinians.

Around four hours after the spy drone hovered over the heads of the residents, Husam Muadi arrived in the village. Muadi is an infrastructure officer in the Hebron District Coordinating Office, which is part of the Civil Administration, which answers to the Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activity in the Territories. He was accompanied by five soldiers whose names are not known.

Remember, it was Friday afternoon. Shabbat is starting to be felt in the military bases. Were the five soldiers upset because they weren’t going home for the weekend? Were they happy because they love action and know the drone operator, who had already invited them for a Shabbat meal at his villa? And what about the infrastructure officer? Why was it so urgent for him to raid the home of Ashraf and Firyal Amour and order the soldiers to confiscate the generator, which allows Firyal to use their washer to wash the clothing that her children collect from a garbage dump, which they then sell for pennies at the Yatta market? It’s hard not to conclude that top officers in the Civil Administration are afraid that if they don’t immediately obey the orders of General Drone, the settlers will disparage them in the government, the Knesset and the media.

We do not know if the drone operator is a resident of a settlement or an outpost, or whether he has an official position in the far-right Regavim organization. In its crusade to expel Palestinians from Area C, that outfit began operating surveillance drones against them years before the Settlement Affairs Ministry decided to help settlers buy them.

It can be assumed that a similarly industrious drone was monitoring the simple concrete home that the family of Harun Abu Aram had built after the cave where their ancestors had lived was no longer habitable. But the family only managed to enjoy it for two weeks. On November 25, the demolition crew arrived. Yair Ron of the Villages Group described the destruction. “From the top of the hill we could see how the tractor was cruelly and deliberately destroying the home, the outhouse, the water tank, the solar panels and even the sheep shed. Everything … There was a whole army of soldiers and border policemen who were armed and protected from head to toe, their faces covered with space helmets and dozens of Civil Administration employees, and Jeeps and light trucks and four yellow bulldozers.

“The destruction came without advance warning … the chief destroyer didn’t even [give] the family enough time to pack their belongings. Some they were able to save and some were left in the house and were crushed in the ruins, which the bulldozer shovel rammed repeatedly, crushing and pulverizing with the sickening sound of dead checking.”

And General Drone was certainly sitting at home, rubbing his hands with glee.

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