Terror in Sha'abeh

 Report from Hebron by Rick Carter, Amos trust 5 January 2001 There's a knock on the door. Thinking it's a friend, you open it and a band of settlers rush in to occupy your home. The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) has no power to stop them. The IDF is here to protect settlers from Palestinians. The civil police are called. They come and send the settlers away, but not before the inside of the house is in ruins. This is how it was in the early days of the Al Aksa Intifada in the Hebron neighbourhood of Sha'abeh, opposite the Israeli settlement of Harsina. Today things are different. Pierre Shantz and I visited Sha'abeh on 3 January, the morning after a night of heavy shooting from Harsina. The IDF has heavy weapons there and the settler residents are also armed. Unknown gunmen come into Sha'abeh, shoot at Harsina and drive away, we were told, leaving those who live there to suffer retaliatory return fire from the IDF and the settlers. Residents speculate about who the shooters are' but no one really knows for sure. "Maybe it's collaborators" says one man. (Collaborators have been used in this conflict to fire from Palestinian neighbourhoods when the IDF wants justification to shell there.) "Maybe it's Fatah, Tanzim or Hamas" says another. A woman tells us: "No sensible person would come among women and children to shoot at Harsina." We visited one home where a bullet from Harsina passed through a bedroom window and into a dresser mirror, narrowly missing a mother brushing her hair. Her three children were on the bed asleep. Another home had a bullet hole in an upholstered chair in a sitting room. Yet another had a bullet pass through two windows and a steel door' lodging into a wall eighteen centimetres from a door into a bedroom where a child was asleep. Had this bullet been eighteen centimetres to the right' the child would be dead. Family after family described what they were doing when the shooting started: things like watching TV, having dinner, sleeping or showering. A woman described the suffering caused by factors apart from shootings and settler harassment. The local economy is all but dead. Her brother is in an Israeli prison for entering Israel illegally to work. "He has two choices: stay here where there is no work and see his wife and children go hungry or risk prison to go into Israel and work." A mother told us, "We dare not go out in the day and dare not stay in at night. We want freedom or death. The Israelis show us no mercy." Most of the people we talked to say they feel it is no longer possible to live peacefully side by side with the Israelis. All names have been intentionally omitted from this article to protect those who talked to us. They live in Area C and fear retaliation. The are terrified the shooting will increase. Parents live in terror of losing their children. They live in terror that the IDF will seize their homes for 'security reasons'. They are terrified of IDF night patrols around their homes. They are terrified the IDF will close their neighbourhood, as the have in part of the Hebron neighbourhood of Hawuz, and force them to ask permission to leave their homes, require them to call ahead for permission to return and forbid visitors. One man described how he was forced by settlers at gunpoint to roll a burning tyre into his living room during the first Intifada. He is terrified it will happen again.

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