14th January 2015 | International Solidarity Movement, Khalil team | Hebron, Occupied Palestine
Checkpoints are numerous and inescapable in the H2 area of al-Khalil (Hebron), where thousands of soldiers guard around 600 Israeli zionist settlers occupying heavily militarised settlement enclaves in the heart of the most populous Palestinian city in the West Bank. The Israeli military imposes numerous restrictions on the freedom of movement of Palestinians in the neighbourhoods of H2, affecting people as they attempt to live, work, study, and travel through their city. Shuhada checkpoint, leading from the H2 neighbourhood of Tel Rumeida into Palestinian-administered H1, is one of the larger and more heavily manned checkpoints.
One Israeli soldier looked through the purse of a young Palestinian woman as her daughter looked on. Even Palestinian children too young to carry bags for a soldier to search are subjected to the everyday sight of their older relatives being stopped, searched, questioned and detained by Israeli forces. Over a period of a couple of hours on Tuesday afternoon, an ISM activist witnessed Israeli soldiers stop and search around fifty Palestinian children, women, and men.
Barbed wire and fences frame the entry way into Shuhada checkpoint, as Israeli soldiers patrol the heavily militarised passage between the Palestinian neighbourhoods of Tel Rumeida and Bab el-Zawiye.
A very young Palestinian girl took a moment to look up at the heavily armed Israeli soldiers standing in her path. Armed with enormous rifles, chests strapped with body armour complete with pockets full of stun grenades and tear gas, the soldiers looked incongruous on the otherwise quiet, sunny street.“I don’t understand why people think we want war, we just want peace,” one Israeli soldier told an ISM activist. The absurdity of his statement, as he stood with his rifle beside the checkpoint, seemed entirely lost on him. Deploying eighteen-year-olds with M16s to search kids’ shopping bags and their mothers’ purses, giving them control over the lives of Palestinians trying to keep surviving in the neighbourhoods of H2 in al-Khalil, creates a situation which, though it may sometimes seem quiet, is anything but peaceful.The soldiers stop whole families at the checkpoint: mothers, grandfathers, sisters laden with shopping bags. This young girl stood waiting off to the side as the Israeli military checked to make sure her relatives did not pose a “threat.”