Since settlers moved into a structure on Worshipers' Way linking Kiryat Arba and Hebron's Machpela Cave last spring, there has been a sharp increase in violence by settlers and security forces against Palestinians, according to two human rights groups, B'tselem and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI).
On March 19, hundreds of settlers occupied the empty apartment building, saying they had purchased it for NIS 700,000. Dozens of people have been living there ever since, naming it Beit Hashalom.
"Dozens of incidents have been documented in which settlers attacked Palestinians in this area, including beatings and destruction of property," according to a report prepared by B'tselem and ACRI. "Rocks, eggs and garbage have been thrown, occupants have urinated from the building on to the street and there has been verbal violence aimed at Palestinians."
The organizations also accused security forces of beating Palestinians, threatening to shoot them, damaging property, blocking the street, cursing them and making racist comments. They said that despite the army's assertion that the presence of the settlers would not lead to new restrictions on Palestinians, "there has been a noticeable increase in the restrictions on freedom of movement and Palestinians are repeatedly held up at the new checkpoint established near the building."
In other cases in Hebron, B'tselem and ACRI said, Jewish "settlements" had led to the expulsion of local Palestinians and the same could be true in the case of the house on Worshipers' Way.
The report listed details and dates of dozens of violent incidents allegedly perpetrated by settlers between March, when the building was first occupied, and September, and several incidents allegedly perpetrated by soldiers and border policemen between March and June.
"The true facts prove that the aggressive party in Hebron is the Arabs," Noam Arnon, spokesman for the Committee for the Renewal of the Jewish Community in Hebron, said. "In one week, more incidents of aggression by Arabs toward Jews are recorded than in all seven months recorded by the overblown report of the Left. The activists of the extreme Left encourage and initiate the Arab violence in Hebron."
Judea and Samaria District Police spokesman Supt. Danny Poleg said, "At this point, there are four complaints that are being handled by the Hebron subdistrict. The police know of a handful of incidents between Jews and Arabs in the context of the building, but there is no overall phenomenon. We should point out that there are mutual complaints by both sides."