Human Rights Defenders Report
On 17 November, hundreds of Israeli soldiers raided homes throughout Al Khalil (Hebron) including several buildings belonging to the Dwaik family who are well-known in Al Khalil for their non-violent resistance against occupation.
Organizer from the Human Rights Defenders Group, Badee Dwaik, described how at about 8:00 pm the family were all at home. His six children aged from seven to eighteen watched through the windows as approximately one hundred IOF (Israeli Occupying Forces) soldiers invaded the area. An estimate one hundred homes were targeted.
The Dwaik family live in apartment buildings, mainly on the same street. Badee Dwaik lives with his family on the second floor of one apartment, some of his brothers live with their families in apartments above him and one brother lives below. His widowed mother lives opposite with his paternal Uncle. Badee reports that all of the family were raided including his cousins’ homes and all the neighbours.
The soldiers claimed that they were searching for guns. Palestinians are banned from owning guns for self-defense although there are over 150,000 guns privately owned by Israelis. This includes guns owned by illegal settlers in Hebron who regularly parade through the main streets of Hebron carrying high velocity rifles. A few weeks ago a Palestinian was shot dead by a settler. Eyewitnesses describe the settler stalking the Palestinian before killing him. Video evidence shows no attempt was made to disarm the settler. Instead the film suggests that the settler was directing the soldiers who appear to be planting a knife. Following the release of this film to the internet the homes of Youth Against Settlements were raided.
The Human Rights Defenders Group view cameras as an important source of protection both from settlers and soldiers because the film provides evidence of Israeli crimes. Videos are also important for educating the public about the brutality of the occupation. As soon as the IOF arrived on his street Badee Dwaik went up to the roof with his camera and started filming. “They saw me and pointed light from a gun towards me” he said.
About forty soldiers then entered Badee’s building, confining the families within their apartments. “They want to control us by shutting the door to each apartment home” Badee said. “The women and kids were crying”. Since the recent upsurge in violence in Al Khalil, Palestinians have tried to ensure that they always remain in groups so they cannot be accused of lone wolf attacks. Badee was consequently very concerned about leaving his brother, on the first floor apartment, alone with the soldiers. He wanted to know if the soldiers had military orders for the raid but the officer in charge refused to show any documentation instead insisting that Badee produce his identification papers. “We need to ID all the families here” he said. Initially he denied Badee permission to go upstairs to his brother’s apartment to collect the identification papers despite being told “to reopen my brother’s door and I will collect it”. Eventually Badee handed the camera to his son telling him to continue filming while he went upstairs with many of the soldiers to fetch the IDs.
Badee is the oldest brother in his family and consequently his children tend to be older. His other brothers have many young children “It has been quiet recently” Badee said. “But they do not want our lives to be quiet. The reason they do this is to intimidate the families. They want to scare our kids and women. The women and children were crying”.
Later the soldiers deliberately broke the camera. However not before the family were able to upload the footage to the internet. Badee also posted photos of the broken camera. The soldiers also wrecked the home. “I don’t know why my home got more mess” Badee said “They turned all my stuff upside down and they beat my 15-year-old nephew Saead and me”.
Badee considers “Maybe they targeted me more than the others, messed up my home and became violent because they recognised that I’m a human rights activist and wanted revenge against me because I followed them with the camera”. On the video one of the soldiers can be heard saying that he recognizes Badee.