Silwan Quarterly Report: June – August
June, July and August 2011 marked a period of relative quiet in Silwan in comparison to last summer, which was characterised by high tensions and sustained confrontations. June 2011 was the only summer month marred by sustained violence, with daily military raids and confrontations between Israeli forces and Palestinian residents. Israeli targeting of children has persisted however, with daily raids and arrests continuing over the summer. Israeli settlers, backed by state-funded security squads, have escalated their provocation of local residents, with a strong focus on Silwan's children. Many have been rounded up by undercover units as authorities attempt to maintain a handle on the village's campaign of civil disobedience against the occupation. Multiple hit-and-runs occurred, targeting Palestinian residents. One military jeep crashed into a Palestinian vehicle, causing severe injuries – and broken bones – to the driver. The jeep left the scene, then attempted to prevent paramedics from reaching the injured. Barriers, checkpoints and road blockades were maintained by the Israeli military throughout Silwan, in particular the notorious checkpoint at the entrance to Wadi Hilweh neighborhood, near the City of David settlement. The checkpoint is the frequent site of harassment of residents and traffic jams, wreaking havoc on the local economy.
Settler security colluded with Israeli soldiers during confrontations in the village, firing live ammunition, sound grenades and several types of tear gas. Israel's house demolition policy remained dormant over the summer, with bulldozers conducting no operations during the three months. The Jerusalem Municipality, however, issued several demolition orders including for the protest tent in Wadi Hilweh. The Wadi Hilweh Information Center collected these figures from the June-August period:
Arrests, detentions and kidnapping The Information Center documented 91 cases of arrest; the kidnapping of 39 children aged under 15; 34 aged from 15-18; 18 cases over 18 years and one woman. The majority of children kidnapped were taken as they played in the neighborhood, without provocation. Local youth Esam Da’na, 8 years old, was kidnapped and violently assaulted
Physical violence and torture All underage arrestees, without exception, were subjected to physical beating that amounted to torture during the kidnapping – particularly by undercover units. Authorities prevented minors from receiving medical care during their detention and arrests. The Information Center documented many such cases, such as Yazan Abassi (15), who was subjected to beating and torture and continues to require medical treatment for eye injuries; and Ahmad Siyam (14) who was arrested multiple times, including once after midnight. Abassi's father and brother have also been assaulted by Israeli officers.Yaza Abasy 15 years old Collapsing psychological cases: Silwan's children and their families live under extreme psychological pressure. The Information Center, with the aid of social psychology specialists, has documented tens of cases of trauma in local children, who live under the ever-present fear of direct violence in their neighborhoods at the hands of soldiers, settlers or their militia. Siyam, 14, bears the emotional scars of his attacks and remains unable to leave the car of his mother or father. The fear of another attack remains ever-present. A mass march was staged in Silwan over the summer against the Israeli campaign targeting children, calling for the preservation and protection of childhood for local youth. Night raids and arrests: Night raids, searches and arrests continued throughout the summer, with many families targeted by Israeli forces. Raids have been concentrated in the areas around Israeli settlements in Baten al-Hawa and Wadi Hilweh districts of Silwan. Confrontations: Although clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian residents continued over the June-August period, the tone was markedly lower than earlier this year. The most violent confrontations took place in Bir Ayyub and Baten al-Hawa districts. Kathem Abu Shafe, 17, arrested by an undercover unit Targeting of activists: Israeli targeting of local activists has continued in an attempt to quell Silwan's popular resistance. Several activists and their families were targeted, including the Odeh family. Settler militia and police collaboration: Witnessing settler security and police collusion is nothing new to the residents of Silwan. One security squad arrested a local child and then turned him over to the police, while undercover units have been sighted using settler jeeps to carry out arrests. Settlers continue to aid police surveillance in Silwan by photographing streets and residents, particularly during clashes, with the aim of falsifying accusations against local residents. Police enforced settler security's goal to prevent children from playing on the streets during the night in the holy month of Ramadan, justifying this act by claiming that it prevents the guards and Israeli troops from carrying out their work. Troops raided a local store, warning the owner that he must stop children from playing near his property. Israeli forces and settler militia man the checkpoint in Wadi Hilweh Arson: The Information Center documented many cases of Palestinian houses that were torched when tear gas was deliberately fired at or inside the property by Israeli forces, including the Abu Ramouz and al-Ragabi family homes. Injuries: Most injuries sustained by residents during the summer were a result of tear gas fired by Israeli forces. Many other cases were due to physical assault by Israeli police or troops. Collective punishment: This policy was enacted through arbitrary issuing of traffic tickets and “taxes” by Jerusalem Municipal workers. Barriers and Closures: The major road barrier at the entrance to Wadi Hilweh, close to the City of David archaeological settlement continued to burden the everyday lives of Palestinians living in Silwan. The barrier is the site of continual harassment and humiliation for residents at the hands of Israeli troops and settler security. The main road of Wadi Hilweh has been closed several times on a number pretexts, with discrimination against Palestinian drivers in clear evidence. Provocative concerts and anti-concert protests: The settler association Elad organised a concert to be held in Silwan during the Ramadan night prayer “Taraweesh”. Local residents denounced the move as an attempt to foil the holy month of Ramadan. Local citizens, joined by solidarity activists, organised a protest against the Elad concert and its appropriation of Silwan's land for the City of David settlement under the Absentee Property Law. A protest in Wadi Hilweh against the Judaisation of Silwan Breaking down telephone and internet cables and street lights: Telephone and Internet cables have been disconnected on several occasions in recent days in Silwan, without notification from the Israeli telecommunications company. Several neighborhoods, including Wadi Hilweh, have been deprived of street lights during Ramadan. Residents claim that the power outage was due to Ramadan decorations, including lights, which settlers didn't want to see in Wadi Hilweh. The decorations, which usually light up the neighborhood, would come in direct contrast to the settler campaign of Judaisation of Silwan.
Blackout in Wadi Hilweh throughout RamadanCourt decision rules Silwan construction illegal: The Israeli Supreme Court has ruled a segment of the construction works taking place in Wadi Hilweh Street as part of the “Improvement of City of David” project illegal. The project, which has seen wide-scale construction works throughout the street, severely disrupting traffic, has been seen by many locals as an act of collective punishment, with the end result as sole benefit to the settlers. Many injuries have occurred as a result of the road works. The Information Center documented three cases, including broken bones. The construction company, meanwhile, refuses to cover the holes and secure the street for the safety of vehicles and pedestrians.