by Wendy Lehman
HEBRON, WEST BANK — The Israel Defense Force (IDF) prevented Palestinians from going to their homes near the Tel Rumeida settlement from 9 am until approximately 7:30 pm on August 24. The IDF closed the area with an unexplained military checkpoint, said witnesses.
Muntasir Tamimi waited at the checkpoint from 12 pm until 5:50 pm before coming to ask Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) members to explore the situation. Our CPT team has been maintaining a violence-deterring presence in Hebron since the beginning of June. When Tamimi came to our CPT residence, I was the only one there and I accompanied him back to Tel Rumeida. At the checkpoint, approximately 25 people waited to go to their homes.Some had been waiting for ten hours. Also present were about a dozen cars that were not permitted through.
I asked one of the soldiers at the checkpoint if Tamimi could go home. He told me I could go through but Tamimi could not. I asked why the area was closed and was told the soldiers had orders “from the top.” When I pulled out my notebook and pen, the soldier appeared nervous. “Who are you?” he asked. I gave him my name and asked him what officer gave him the orders.
The soldier said, “I forget his name.” When I asked the soldier, “What’s your name?” he said, “I forget.”
Another soldier at the checkpoint was willing to give me his own name — Sammy Ben Tovin — but also told me he could not reveal the commanding officer’s identity. I asked him why, and he said, “You are a reporter; you know why.”
The soldiers also held the identity cards of several Palestinians. I asked Ben Tovin why, and he said, “They [the card owners] tried to run away.” He did not explain why the soldiers wanted to keep the Palestinians at the checkpoint.
I called the Israeli police of Hebron and explained the situation at 6 pm.They said they would come to the site. A half hour later, the police arrived and talked with the soldiers. One police officer then told me, “The soldiers will let people go to their homes now.”
At 6:45 pm, the police left and the Palestinians were still not allowed to go to their homes. I asked Ben Tovin if the police would return. He said, “They will send another officer who knows the situation well.” A few minutes later, the rest of the CPT team arrived after I was able to contact them.
At 7:10 pm, another police officer arrived. He spoke with the soldiers and then reported that the checkpoint would stay in place until 10 pm, but Palestinians would be allowed to return to their homes on foot. Palestinians who didn’t live within the closed area but merely wanted to walk through it to go to their homes were prevented from doing so.
About 25 minutes after the police left, Tamimi and others were still not allowed to walk through to their homes. Palestinian Hanni Abu Haikel, who lives in the area, told Ben Tovin that Tamimi had had heart surgery one year before and now needed to return home for health reasons.
Tamimi showed Ben Tovin his scar. After deliberating for a couple of minutes, Ben Tovin waved him through. Soon, other Palestinians were allowed to return to their homes as well.
Before leaving, Tamimi thanked the CPTers and shook my hand. Ben Tovin said, “It is not because of her [that you are going home], it’s because of me.”