On Saturday, 5 August 2017, at approximately 9:00 P.M., A.J., 15, and M.J., 14, both from the Jaber neighborhood in Hebron, were on their way to the local grocery store when they noticed a group of some ten settler youths coming towards them. The settlers were coming from the street known as the Worshipers’ Route, which connects the settlement of Kiryat Arba with al-Haram al-Ibrahimi/the Tomb of the Patriarchs. About seven soldiers were stationed at the time at a nearby post, which is manned only on weekends.
In a testimony he gave to B’Tselem field researcher Manal al-Ja’bri on 7 August 2017, A.J described what happened:
M. and I went to the local grocery store to buy some snacks and some things for the house. On our way there, we saw a group of about ten settlers between the ages of ten and thirteen coming from the direction of the Worshipers’ Route. They started teasing us and swearing at us. There were soldiers nearby who could see what was going on. We swore back at them and then the settlers came closer and attacked us. When we tried to defend ourselves, the soldiers intervened and assaulted us.
They knocked us to the ground and twisted our arms behind our backs. By then, some neighborhood residents had come there. A few older residents tried to persuade the soldiers to let us go. The soldiers let M. go but kept me. One soldier sat on my back, pressing me down with his knee pad, while another handcuffed me. I cried out in pain because the first soldier was pressing my face into the road, and the second twisted my arm behind my back.
Neighborhood residents gathered at the scene and tried to persuade the soldiers to let A. go, too. A fight ensued in which the settlers and residents threw stones at each other. In response, soldiers fired teargas and stun grenades at the Palestinians. A.J. was arrested and taken to the police station at Kiryat Arba, where he was interrogated and accused of throwing stones at settlers. He denied the allegations and was released several hours later.
Meanwhile, the clashes between the settlers and the neighborhood residents continued. Two residents, M.J. and ‘A.J., were injured.The latter starting filming the incident on his mobile phone and was assaulted by settlers.
‘A.J. described what happened next in a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Manal al-Ja’bri on 6 August 2017:
I took my mobile phone and started filming what was going on. Then the settlers attacked me, so I went to the building of my neighbour, M.J. He was standing at the top of the staircase in the building. I went up and joined him, and kept filming. As I was doing that, some settler kids between the ages of roughly ten to thirteen swore at me and hit me. I swore back at them until a soldier took them away and told M. and me to go inside. We ignored him and I kept on filming. M. phoned the DCO, the Red Cross, and other organizations so they would come and intervene. More soldiers arrived but they didn’t manage to make the settlers stop attacking the residents.
At some point, the children left. Two settlers who looked to be in their twenties came over to us and started throwing stones at us. One stone hit me in the nose and another in the hand. My nose started bleeding. M. was hit by a stone in the head and started bleeding badly.
M.J. gave his account of the incident in a testimony he gave to B’Tselem field researcher Manal al-Ja’bri on 6 August 2017:
Two settlers in their twenties attacked us. They started hitting and kicking ‘A. Two soldiers intervened and took them away. After a few seconds, dozens of settlers started throwing stones at ‘A. and at me. ‘A. was hit in the nose by a stone and started bleeding. He was also hit in the hand. I was hit in the back of the head by a stone and started bleeding a lot. We went inside for a while, but the bleeding was bad so I went outside to ask the soldiers for help. They ignored me, and the settlers started attacking me again. I went from soldier to soldier and also asked several police officers who were there for help, but they all ignored me and told me to go away.
It was only later, when another settler attacked M., that the soldiers came to M.’s aid and led him over to a military jeep, where he was told to wait. He found his neighbour, also waiting there with an injured hand. The two men waited for approximately an hour, with no first aid offered them, until they were taken by ambulance to hospital.
Such incidents are a routine matter in Hebron. Over the years, B’Tselem has documented many instances in which Israeli soldiers stood by while settlers attacked Palestinians. In violation of its duty obligations as the occupying power, the Israeli military behaves as though it were responsible for the safety of settlers only, rather than keeping the peace, and takes no action against settlers who act violently towards Palestinians. In this incident, yet again, the perpetrators were not held accountable while the victim, a 15-year-old Palestinian, was violently detained and interrogated.