By force or forgery: How settlers claim Palestinian homes

On their Hebron doorstep, one Palestinian family fears their home – like many others – could be taken from them by settlers

By Akram Al-Waara

After the Israeli occupation Jewish settlers had decided to take over a Palestinian family’s house in Al-Khalil (Hebron), Israeli occupation forces did their best to clear it.


The traces of a black eye are still visible on Abdel Qader Abu Srour’s face as he takes his medication with his morning coffee.

The father of two is tired. After four days in custody, he has just been released from an Israeli prison. “They kept me in solitary confinement for the first two days in a freezing cell with no blankets, nothing hot to drink, and no medical care,” he tells Middle East Eye.

Abu Srour, 27, was arrested on 7 February after being badly beaten by Israeli soldiers outside his family home in the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron. They were escorting a group of Israeli settlers who claimed Abu Srour’s home was, in fact, their own.

“One of the settlers, the leader of the group, said that our house belonged to them and that we had to leave,” Abu Srour, who said more than ten soldiers and three heavily armed settlers had arrived at his home.

“When I told him that this house is ours and we have the papers to prove it, he started threatening me, saying we had 10 days to leave the house and if we didn’t he would destroy it while we were still inside.

“More than five soldiers beat, kicked me, and hit me with their rifles, all while the settlers egged them on,” he said. The soldiers also threw sound bombs and tear gas canisters at his mother and fired pepper spray at him at point blank range.

“All of this because the settlers told them to,” he says. “They want our house, so now they will do anything to get it.”

Back-door deals

The Abu Srour family now find themselves embroiled in a dispute they fear they will lose, despite having papers proving ownership of their house. Theirs is one of many cases of individual settlers and their organisations falsely staking claims to property – and using forged documents, state backing and intimidation to ensure they are successful.

Evidence of the success of such attempts can be found just metres from the Abu Srour family’s home where Beit al-Baraka, a former church, now stands. The church compound once served as a tuberculosis hospital. Three years ago, it became part of the nearby Israeli settlement bloc, Gush Etzion.

There were several steps to the compound being transferred into settler hands. Its first owners, a Presbyterian church group, fell into financial difficulties and sold it in 2010 to a Swedish company called Scandinavian Seamen Holy Land Enterprises.

The firm claimed it planned to restore the church and return it to its original operations. But, unknown to the sellers, the man behind the newly founded firm was a Norwegian Christian by the name of Gro Faye-Hansen Wenske, a supporter of Israeli settlements.

When Scandinavian Seamen Holy Land Enterprises announced it was going out of business in 2012, it sold the property to an American organisation controlled by pro-settler US businessman Irving Moskowitz. By 2016, the compound was officially registered as part of the Israeli settlement bloc, Gush Etzion.

The Abu Srour home was built by the same missionaries that built the compound, and was home to the head of the hospital. While the Abu Srour family bought the house in 1990 – and have Palestinian, Israeli and American documents to prove it – they now fear that settlers may use backdoor methods or even forgery to claim the home, just as they “deceived” their way to Beit Baraka years ago.

The settlers claiming the Abu Srour family home have not yet presented any documents supporting their case.

Fake companies, fraudulent documents

Intimidation, falsified documents, and backdoor methods are standard practice in land deals in the occupied territory, according to reports in recent years. A 2016 investigation by Israel’s Channel 10 found that 14 out of 15 land acquisitions from Palestinians by the pro-settler Amana firm were forged.

Haaretz follow-up to the investigation detailed the processes that settler firms used to acquire land. Whenever the state sought to evacuate illegal outposts in the Ramallah area, representatives from Al-Watan – a company run by pro-settlement activist Ze’ev Hever and owned by Amana – would announce they had purchased the local lands from their Palestinian owners.

In fact, Palestinians acting on behalf of Al-Watan had used forged documents, claiming to be the real landowners, and bought the properties, then transferred them to Amana, Haaretz reported. Hever is a convicted terrorist.

Abdel Rahman Saleh, 71, the former mayor of the Ramallah-area village of Silwad, told MEE that companies like Al-Watan and the Holy Land Company, which he regards as fake firms run by Palestinians, Jordanians and Israelis, pay up to 60,000 Jordanian Dinars ($84,626) for each dunam of land, compared to the market rate of around 2,000 Dinars ($2,820).

“These companies deny buying property for the settlers, but they have a history of purchasing land in East Jerusalem through the same means,” he said.

According to Saleh, settler organisations work hand in hand with Israel’s Shin Bet to forge documents used in land purchases.

“The settlers go to the Israeli intelligence, which helps them collect data on the land, its owners, their ID numbers, details to the deeds,” Saleh said. “So they take all of these details and make fake papers using our information to make it look as if we sold the land to them.”

Saleh has decades of experience under his belt in dealing with Israeli settlers and false land purchases. During his tenure as Silwad’s mayor, he fought a lengthy legal battle on behalf of residents whose lands were purchased using forged documents, and transferred to settlers from the illegal Amona outpost.

“In 1996, through the Holy Land company, settlers from Amona used forged documents to confiscate more than 2,000 dunums of land privately owned by residents of Silwad, Ein Yabrud, and Taybeh,” Saleh said. “We filed a case in court and finally in 2014, the state ruled to kick out the settlers on the basis that the documents were forged.”

Yesh Din, an Israeli NGO that assisted the residents of Silwad in their legal battle, said that behind Amona’s illegal construction was “an entire mechanism dedicated to expelling Palestinians from their land, with the help of local councils, the Amana organisation, the IDF, the Yesha Council, the Settlement Division, politicians and government ministries”.

In 2017, Amona was evacuated, which was “a huge victory for Silwad and the surrounding villages, who also got some of their land back,” Saleh said.

Representatives of Amana and Al-Watan could not be reached for comment.

Ongoing fight

While the evacuation of Amona was an unusual victory, the fight is far from over.

In December 2018, settlers returned to the land of their former outpost and erected two prefab homes, claiming they had just bought the land from its Palestinian owners.

Haaretz reported that Israel’s Civil Administration had not examined the alleged proof of purchase before the homes were erected, and one source said the administration hadn’t even confirmed that the lot the homes were built on was the same one ostensibly purchased.

Still, the Palestinians who own the land continue to be prevented from cultivating it and, in addition to fighting for access to it, also face suspicion from their community over the Israeli claim to their lands.

“These cases cause so much discord within the communities, because people start to doubt their neighbours and wonder: ‘Did they really sell their land, sell our homeland, to the settlers?’” Saleh said.

“It can take years, decades as you have seen, to set the record straight. And in the meantime, people can get ostracised and excommunicated if the community thinks that they sold their lands to the Israelis.”

‘They have the whole system on their side’

Just south of Gush Etzion, Abu Srour and his family fear they could be facing a similarly drawn-out battle to remain on their land. While settlers and soldiers are now using intimidation and violence to stake their claim, he worries that backdoor routes and fraud used to purchase other property could be put to use in the attempt to takeover his house.

“We know that we were meticulous in our purchase of this house, and made sure to leave no loopholes for something like this to happen,” he said.

“But these are settlers. They have the occupation soldiers, courts, and politicians in their pockets. They have the whole system on their side.”

Five months before the settlers arrived with the soldiers in February, he said that the man he regards as the head of the group of settlers – who he thinks is a former intelligence officer – called him to say he wanted to buy the house.

He said he would pay anything for it. Abu Srour refused the offer.

“There was some fear at the time that if the settlers managed to deceive their way into buying Beit al-Baraka, they could forge some documents and try to claim our house along with it,” Abu Srour says.

“When they want something, they will exhaust every means – legal and illegal – to take the land from the Palestinians.”

(Source / 22.04.2019) 

CHILD DIES ELEVEN DAYS AFTER ISRAELI OCCUPATION ANNOUNCED HIS DEATH IN CAPTIVITY

On April 4th Israeli occupation claimed that its occupation forces’ soldiers had shot two youths and arrested them along with a third on the preceding evening after they had crossed the border fence from the besieged Gaza Strip. Israeli occupation also alleged that one of three youths had consecutively died of his wounds in a hospital in the city of Beersheba in ethnically cleansed Palestine 1948.

Two of the youths were released back to the tiny littoral enclave on April 5th, but the identity of the youth Israel said it’s troops had killed was not revealed by either Israeli or Palestinian authorities. The two youths released were both shown to be underage.

Then, on April 15th Israeli occupation announced the death of 16-year-old Ishaq Abdul Muti Suwailm Eshteiwi – and revealed that he was the youth Israel had already once reported to have died on April 4th. (In some reports the original Israeli occupation claim has led to the mistaken claim that there would be two dead victims, Eshteiwi and unknown second one reported on April 4th.)

The teenager had lived week-and-a-half after his death had been announced by Israel’s regime. This has raised some suspicions of what actually happened to him – and a likely futile hope that some of the dozen people whose bodies Israel claims to be hoarding after killing them on the Gaza border during the Great Return March, could in fact be alive as their relatives have not been given more than the Israeli regime’s word as evidence that they are dead.

(Source / 21.04.2019) 

Hamas denies forming new government in Gaza

Hamas's leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Al-Sinwar meets with leaders of Palestinian factions, in Gaza city on 18 October 2017 [Atia Darwish/Apaimages]

Hamas’s leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Al-Sinwar meets with leaders of Palestinian factions, in Gaza city on 18 October 2017 

Hamas has denied that it had formed a new government or administrative committee in the Gaza Strip, in response to Fatah’s formation of a new government in Ramallah.

In a statement, Hamas’ chief in Gaza Yahya Al-Sinwar said: “Commenting on the false news reported by different mass media, we stress that there has been no new government or administrative committee.”

However, the statement confirmed some rotation among the officials in Gaza’s ministries, noting that this happened for the sake of facilitating government services offered to Palestinian citizens.

Palestinian media reported that Hamas had formed a new administrative committee in response to the formation of a new government in the occupied West Bank, which is dominated by Fatah members.

READ: Fatah to Hamas, last chance for reconciliation

(Source / 21.04.2019) 

Israeli Colonist Runs Over A Palestinian Child Near Bethlehem

21 APR1:15 AM

A speeding illegal Israeli colonist rammed with his car, on Saturday evening, a Palestinian child in the al-Ferdees Mountain area, east of Bethlehem, in the occupied West Bank.

Media sources said the child, only five years of age, suffered various cuts and bruises, and that his wounds were described as moderate-but-stable.

They added that an Israeli ambulance was called to the scene and provided the needed medical attention to the wounded child, but did not move him to an Israeli hospital.

A Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance was then called to the scene and rushed the child to a hospital in Bethlehem.

(Source / 21.04.2019) 

Israel Denies All Gaza Christians Travel Permits to Jerusalem for Easter

21 APR8:41 PM

For the first time, Israeli authorities decided this year to deny all travel permits to Palestinian Christians from Gaza to celebrate Easter as they do each year, by processing from Bethlehem to Jerusalem to follow the path of Jesus in the Resurrection.

The number of permits issued by the occupying Israeli military authorities have diminished each year, and have included blanket bans on anyone under age 55 – but this is the first year that the Israeli military decided to allow zero Palestinian Christians from Gaza to travel to Jerusalem for Easter.

There are around 1,100 Palestinian Christians in Gaza, many of whom are descended from the earliest Christians in Palestine (where Christianity originated).

While some practice the Latin faith and mark Easter on the 21st of April this year, many others are Eastern Orthodox, and celebrate Easter on the 28th. Their traditional ceremonies involve a commemoration of Palm Sunday in Bethlehem, then a procession from the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, where Christians believe Jesus was resurrected after death.

According to the Israeli human rights organization Gisha, “The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) published the quotas set by Israel for holiday permits to be granted to for Christian Palestinians living under Israel’s control. The quota allocated by COGAT for holiday permits for Gaza residents this Easter is limited to only 200 people over the age of 55, and only for travel abroad; the quotas for West Bank residents are limited to 400 permits for travel abroad, and visits in Israel. This means that Palestinian families separated between Gaza, Israel and the West Bank will not be able to mark the Easter holiday together. It also means that all Christians in Gaza are being denied access to family and to the holy sites in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

“This is the first time that we know of that Israel is outright denying access of Gaza Christians to the West Bank and Israel (on Christmas or Easter). It is also a far smaller quota than previous holidays, when COGAT set quotas of at least 500 permits, or more. Such a sweeping restriction cannot be justified by security needs.

“Israel’s decision to outright deny movement between Gaza and the West Bank this Easter constitutes a further violation of Palestinians’ fundamental rights to freedom of movement, religious freedom, and family life. The increased restriction on the movement of Palestinian Christians points to further implementation of Israel’s ‘separation policy’: a policy restricting movement between Gaza and the West Bank which deepens the split between the two parts of the occupied Palestinian territory.

“Israel allowed only 200 Christians from Gaza, who are over 55-years-old to travel only to the Jordanian Kingdom through the Allenby border crossing, and did not issue permits for those hoping to visit the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem City and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in East Jerusalem.”

The Israeli rights group Gisha reported complaints against the Israeli authorities regarding the restrictions imposed on Christians who want to travel during the Jewish holiday of Passover, also known as Pesach, which coincides with Easter.

The ban on Gaza Christians comes after Israeli military authorities announced the full closure of the West Bank and Gaza for Palestinian residents during the week of Passover, from April 19th to 27th. Israeli military authorities, which control all aspects of life for the occupied Palestinians living under their rule in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, frequently closing all Palestinian areas and preventing Palestinians from moving between Palestinian towns during periods of Jewish holidays.

Gisha said, “This is a flagrant violation of the freedom of movement, freedom of worship and freedom of enjoying family life for the Christians in Gaza,” noting that the Strip is an example of a “wider Israeli racist policy.” Gisha added, “Imposing such sweeping restrictions on movement cannot be justified by security needs.”

The rights group also stressed in a statement last week, “Israel is increasingly restricting movement between Gaza and the West Bank so as to deepen the separation between Palestinians torn between parts of the occupied Palestinian territory, and by doing so, advance and legitimize its annexation of the West Bank.”

(Source / 21.04.2019) 

International Campaign To Boycott Puma Company, The Israeli Union Sponsor

Days Of Palestine [ BDS] – BDS organizes an international campaign aiming to boycott Puma clothing and sports equipment as it supports the Zionist illegal settlements in the Palestinian territories and is considered to be the official sponsor of the Israeli Football Association (IFA).

On Saturday, June 15, the campaign has selected the world’s largest campaign, marking the 52th anniversary of the occupation of 67 territories by the Zionist entity.

It calls on everyone to move towards the shops of the company “Puma” to view the violations of the occupation against Palestinian athletes, and the dissemination of the issue through social networking sites, boycott the products of the company and urge everyone to do so.

The campaign will also deliver the company’s branches around the world a protest message from 200 Palestinian clubs.

(Source / 21.04.2019) 

Lieberman, who wants to cut off Palestinians’ heads, to become defence minister

Regarding last week’s prisoners’ hunger strike, he said: “Leave them starving to death.”

The Russian nightclub bouncer, Avigdor Lieberman, who wanted to cut the heads of the Palestinian with his axe, is likely becoming the new Israeli defence minister.

Israeli MK David Bitan told Israeli radio 103 FM on Sunday morning that Lieberman is to hold the defence portfolio again.

Lieberman resigned form this ministry during the last government because he said he did not have enough power to enable him to assassinate Palestinian leaders and attack civilians.

Commenting in the existence of Palestinians in their homes, which were occupied in 1948, he said: “There is nothing to be done. We need to pick up an axe and cut off their heads.”

Lieberman (1).jpg

(Source / 21.04.2019) 

PCHR: “On 55th Friday of Great March of Return and Breaking Siege, Israeli Forces Wound 100 Civilians, including 23 Children, 5 Women, 4 Paramedics, and 4 Journalists”

20 APR12:53 AM

The Palestinian Centre For Human Rights (PCHR): On Friday, 19 April 2019, in excessive use of force against peaceful protesters on the 55th Friday of the Great March of Return and Breaking the Siege, Israeli forces wounded 100 civilians, including 23 children, 5 women, 4 paramedics, and 4 journalists, in the eastern Gaza Strip.  Two of those wounded sustained serious wounds.

According to observations by PCHR’s fieldworkers, the Israeli forces who stationed in prone positions and in military jeeps along the fence with Israel continued to use excessive force against the protesters by firing bullets and tear gas canisters at them.

As a result, dozens of the protesters were hit with bullets and teargas canisters without posing any imminent threat or danger to the life of soldiers.

During this week, Israeli forces have escalated their attacks against the medical personnel in the field, wounding 4 members of them and targeting an ambulance belonging to the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) in eastern Khan Younis with a teargas canister directly while in field and evacuating those wounded.

This indicates that there is an Israeli systematic policy to target the medical personnel and obstruct their humanitarian work that is guaranteed under the rules of the international humanitarian law.

On Friday, 19 April 2019, the incidents were as follows:

At approximately 16:00, thousands of civilians, including women, children and entire families, started swarming to the five encampments established by the Supreme National Authority of Great March of Return and Breaking the Siege adjacent to the border fence with Israel in eastern Gaza Strip cities.

Hundreds of protesters, including children and women,  gathered adjacent to the border fence with Israel in front of each encampment and its vicinity tens  and hundreds of meters away from the fence. The protesters chanted slogans, raised flags, and in very limited incidents attempted to approach the border fence and throw stones at the Israeli forces.

Although the protesters gathered in areas open to the Israeli snipers stationed on the top of the sand berms and military watchtowers and inside and behind the military jeeps, the Israeli forces fired live and rubber bullets in addition to a barrage of tear gas canisters.

The Israeli shooting, which continued at around 19:00, resulted in the injury of 100 civilians, including 23 children, 5 women, 4 paramedics, and 4 journalists. Thirty-three of those wounded were hit with live bullets and shrapnel, 42 were directly hit with tear gas canisters and 13 were hit with rubber bullets. In addition, dozens of civilians suffered tear gas inhalation and seizures due to tear gas canisters that were fired by the Israeli forces from the military jeeps and riffles in the eastern Gaza Strip.

The following table shows the number of civilian casualties due to the Israeli forces’ suppression of the Great March of Return since its beginning on 30 March:

KilledWounded
Total20312161
Children442351
Women2367
Journalists2198
Medical personnel3194
Persons with disabilities8Undefined
Note:Among those wounded, 543 are in serious condition and 137 had their lower or upper limbs amputated; 123 lower-limb amputations, 14 upper-limb amputations, and 25 children had their limbs amputated according to the Ministry of Health.  The number of those wounded only include those wounded with live bullets and directly hit with tear gas canisters, as there have been thousand others who suffered tear gas inhalation and sustained bruises.

PCHR reiterates Palestinians’ right to peaceful assembly to confront Israel and its forces’ denial of the legitimate and inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including the right to self-determination, right to return and right to end the occupation of the Palestinian territory.

PCHR stresses that the Israeli forces should stop using excessive force and respond to the legitimate demands of the demonstrators, particularly lifting the closure which is the real solution to end the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.

PCHR reiterates the reported published in February by the UN Commission of Inquiry which emphasizes what came by PCHR and other Palestinian and international human rights organizations.  The report at the time concluded that the Israeli violations may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

PCHR emphasizes that continuously targeting civilians, who exercise their right to peaceful assembly or while carrying out their humanitarian duty, is a serious violation of the rules of international law, international humanitarian law, the ICC Rome Statute and Fourth Geneva Convention.

Thus, PCHR reiterates its call upon the ICC Prosecutor to open an official investigation in these crimes and to prosecute and hold accountable all those applying or involved in issuing orders within the Israeli Forces at the security and political echelons.

PCHR also emphasizes that the High Contracting Parties to the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention should fulfill their obligation under Article 1; i.e., to respect and ensure respect for the Convention in all circumstances and their obligations under Article 146 to prosecute persons alleged to commit grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

PCHR calls upon Switzerland, in its capacity as the Depository State for the Convention, to demand the High Contracting Parties to convene a meeting and ensure Israel’s respect for this Convention, noting that these grave breaches constitute war crimes under Article 147 of the same Convention and Protocol (I) Additional to the Geneva Conventions regarding the guarantee of Palestinian civilians’ right to protection in the occupied territories.

(Source / 20.04.2019) 

Israeli Soldiers Detain Groom, His Uncle, During Wedding Dinner In Jerusalem

20 APR3:06 AM

Israeli soldiers and police officers invaded, Friday, a wedding dinner party in the al-‘Isawiya village, in occupied Jerusalem, and detained the groom and his uncle.

A video published by Wadi Hilweh Information Center in Silwan (Silwanic) on its Facebook page showed many officers invading the area and detaining the groom and his uncle.

Silwanic stated that the soldiers invaded the party because of Palestinian flags that were raised there, and demanded their immediate removal.

The soldiers then detained the groom and his uncle, and took them to a police station to sign an affidavit that all Palestinian flags will be removed, and no flags will be raised, or face imprisonment and high fines.

Video By Silwanic:

(Source / 20.04.2019)  

Israeli Soldiers Abduct A Palestinian Near Hebron

20 APR7:17 PM

Israeli soldiers abducted, Saturday, a young Palestinian man after stopping him at a military roadblock, south of the southern West Bank city of Hebron, and took him to an unknown destination.

Eyewitnesses said the soldiers installed a military roadblock at “Zeev” junction, and abducted Mohammad Ibrahim Jabarin, 19.

They added that the soldiers stopped and searched dozens of cars and interrogated many Palestinians while inspecting their ID cards.

In related news, the soldiers invaded several neighborhoods in Hebron city, and closed the main entrances of Sa’ir and Halhoul towns, north of Hebron, before stopping and searching dozens of cars, and examined the ID cards of the passengers.

(Source / 20.04.2019)