Israeli Soldiers Assault Shepherds, Arrest 1 in At-Tuwani

7 January 2010

From Christian Peacemaker Teams

At Tuwani – On the morning of Thursday 7 January, 2010, Israeli soldiers attacked and injured Palestinian shepherds from the Musa Raba’i family, as they grazed their sheep in Humra valley, near the village of At-Tuwani in the South Hebron Hills. The soldiers also attacked the internationals accompanying the shepherds and broke a video camera. Before leaving the area the soldiers arrested one of the shepherds, Musab Musa Raba’i.

At around 10:30am Palestinian shepherds were grazing their sheep on privately owned Palestinian land when they saw Israeli settlers observing them from the outpost of Havat Ma’on. A short time later an Israeli army jeep came to the area. After stopping to speak with one of the settlers, three Israeli soldiers approached the shepherds and ordered them to leave the area. The shepherds explained that it was their land, but agreed to move further down into the valley. The soldiers followed them and grabbed at one of the shepherds, so they all tried to quickly leave the area with their sheep. A second army jeep came to the area and a further three soldiers joined in the attack escalating the violence. Soldiers hit the shepherds with their rifle butts, pushed them and while some soldiers forcibly held them to the ground others kicked them.

Other members of the family came to the area, and the women tried to intervene, hoping to deescalate the situation. However, the women were also forcefully pushed to the ground. Internationals trying to video tape the violent attack were roughly pushed and a soldier grabbed at and broke one of the video cameras.

Other villagers came to the area and tried to calm the situation by talking with the soldiers, but the soldiers ignored all pleas for calm and instead fired percussion grenades and tear gas into the small group of women and children gathered nearby on the hillside.

Israeli police reported to the scene after receiving numerous calls from internationals, but arrived as the soldiers were leaving the area. The police told CPTers that there would be a military investigation into the actions of the soldiers.

During the incident a spokeperson from an Israeli Human Right Organization called the local Israeli Army Brigade Operations Room and the Israeli Army Coordination Office to find out what was happening. She told CPT “I called several time and they had no information and no idea that something was going on in At Tuwani.”

Note to Editors: At the time of writing Moussab Mussa Raba’i is still detained at Kiryat Arba police station. One elderly woman, Umm Juma’ Raba’i, and a young woman, Umm Ribhi Raba’i, who is 2 months pregnant, had to be taken to hospital, suffering from the effects of tear gas inhalation. Three of the shepherds, Kamaal Raba’i, Majde Raba’i and Juma’ Raba’i were hospitalized for their injuries, and a young boy, Ramze Jamaal Raba’i, had his tooth broken.

Christian Peacemaker Teams and Operation Dove have maintained an international presence in At-Tuwani since 2004.