IDF troops backed by police yesterday prevented human rights activists from handing out aid to a group of south Mt. Hebron families the army evicted from caves in early July, Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR) leader Arik Ascherman said yesterday.
About 60 peace activists, including members of RHR and foreigners, went to south Hebron yesterday to visit the evicted families, Ascherman said. The homeless families have since been served new demolition notices for the tents and shacks they put up after their caves were sealed.
The activists, members of RHR, the Israel Committee Against House Demolitions and the Christian Peacemakers Team, brought blankets, tents, material for making tents, and household supplies. Their aim was to protest the "campaign of collective punishment" against the families, who had been living in the caves area for more than 30 years. Ascherman said the army confiscated and destroyed supplies provided by the Red Cross last month, after the families were evicted from their caves.
While they were handing out the supplies yesterday, the army and police showed up and halted the distribution. Ascherman said one of the officers told him the activists could stay there, even though the army declared it a closed military area, but they could not hand out equipment because it "encourages [Palestinians] to stay."
An IDF source said it permitted the demonstration, but that as soon as the demonstrators began handing out supplies, the army forced the demonstrators to stop. According to the source, the Red Cross-supplied tent was demolished after the murder of Yair Har-Sinai, and the IDF opposes its reconstruction.
Later, the activists visited residents of Hirbat Awayman, near the Sussiya settlement. The residents said settlers have been systematically vandalizing the caves where the residents live, and harassing them and their flocks. On six occasions the residents complained to police - and on all six occasions, police wrote up reports, but the harassment didn't stop.
The residents now worry the settlers will try to sabotage the harvest to force the Palestinians out of the area.
Attorney Shlomo Laquer, who two years ago won a High Court order against the Civil Administration after it ordered the cave dwellers to evacuate their homes, is planning to go back to the High Court to put a stop to the administrative steps taken against the cave-dwellers.
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