Beit Ommar Endures 48 Hour Invasion; Several Casualties and Arrests

11 October 2008

Day 1

At 4 am yesterday morning more than 50 Israeli soldiers entered Beit Ommar and took over two homes inside the village. Soldiers built sniper posts, filled one home’s windows with sandbags, and raised Israeli flags over both homes inside the village. They then erected a roadblock on the main road and have intermittently prevented foot and car traffic down the main road, cutting off more than 30,000 people from Beit Ommar and surrounding villages from accessing the highway to Betlehem or Hebron. Though the order they came with specified that the homes were to be occupied for one day, the permanent structures erected, including the roadblock, barbed wire fences surrounding the homes, and sniper posts, indicate they intend to occupy the homes for some time. When the owner of one of the homes, who has a heart condition, attempted to lie down inside the garage at the base of his home, dozens of soldiers rushed the garage, attacking the female and male residents of the home and their supporters and International and Israeli solidarity activists who had come to document the situation. Palestinians, Israelis, and an International were kicked, punched and headbutted by Israeli soldiers who then chased some of the people down the street for several meters, kicking and beating them. They also shot a tear gas canister at the legs of one international activist. The soldiers also attempted to steal the cameras of Israeli and international activists several times, though they were unsuccessful. At approximately 2pm police arrived and declared the entire village a closed military zone to Israeli and internationals.
Soldiers then entered further into the village and arrested one young man, Ismaim Sabarneh, 23, from his home. They handcuffed and blindfolded him and took him to the varanda of one of the occupied homes where they used him as a human shield, forcing him to crouch in front of them for over an hour in the afternoon sun as protection against stones being thrown, though none had been thrown at the home. They then took him inside the home where they held him for several hours before taking him to the police station in Gush Etzion. Another man, the nephew of the mayor of Beit Ommar, was then arrested as he walked in the street and taken into a corner and savagely beaten. He too had his hands tied and his eyes blindfolded before being taken to the veranda of the home and also forced to crouch in front of the soldiers for over an hour.

As the sun set, soldiers began invading several homes, arresting youth at random, including two 14 year old boys and a 15 year old. Two of these young men were grabbed from their homes and then forced to walk in front of soldiers around the fields behind their home, presumably again to be used as human shields for soldiers, in contravention of International law.
By 7pm 9 young men, between the ages of 14 and 23, had been arrested, half of whom were taken into the occupied home by soldiers and held there, rather than to a police station.

At approximately 11pm Israeli soldiers then broke into the home of the Palestine Solidarity Project, forcing the door open and then disabling the latch, though they did not enter the home itself.

Day 2
On day 2 of the invasion, Israeli Occupation Forces continued their occupation of the two homes of Wahib Awwad and Murshed Awad. They also began making even more forays into the center of town, provoking Palestinian youth into the streets, throwing stones at the Armored Personnel Carriers. Soldiers in small groups then began invading various houses and arresting more youth. When one 14 year old boy was taken from his home, a crowd of women and older men approached the soldiers, demanding the reason for the boy’s arrest. The soldiers shot tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets into the crowd, injuring at least one. As they were leaving the area, soldiers shot Mohammed Hussein Awad, 38, in the shoulder with live ammunition. As other residents gathered to assist him to the ambulance, they were showered with tear gas and the ambulance was delayed in reaching him. He was taken to hospital in Hebron.

After 2 days of invasions there were three severe injuries, Mohammed Awad, Mohammed BAssem Za’aqiq, 20, who was also shot, and a woman, Ibtesam Mohammed Alami, 45, who was injured when she was hit with a tear gas canister.

The following 15 people were arrested, ages 12-25. 2 Were later released, the other 13 are at the date of this report still being held by Israeli police.

Ismail Khalil Sabarna, 23.
Samer Abed Al Hamid Alami, 25.
Ahmed Ali Alami, 12.
Jihad Mohammed Alami, 14.
Mohammed Ibrahim Alami, 14.
Ibrahim Fathi Awad, 17.
Muhanned Yousef Awad, 13. (released)
Ala-a Nasser Alami, 25.
Mo’taz Khalid Awad, 16.
Uday Mohammed Za’aqiq, 17.
Hossam Hassan Bregheith, 19. (released)
Khalil Mahmoud Sabarna, 23.
Mohammed Mahmoud Sabarna, 15.
Ibrahim Ali Sabarna, 18.
Amir Ibrahim Bregheith, 17.

The Israeli Forces withdrew in the early evening on Saturday, leaving widespread destruction in the occupied houses and entire village.