In the hours before the sunrise, the streets of Hebron are largely quiet. But the area adjacent to the strip of former market stalls slated for evacuation is a hub of activity in the damp, cold morning hours. Handfuls of youth dart back and forth, making final preparations for the arrival of security forces to forcibly remove the Yahalom and Bar Kochba families from the market-area apartments where they have been living in recent months.
At around 5 a.m., the area jumps to life as a male resident takes to the neighborhood loudspeaker, calling on protesters to "prepare for the expulsion forces which will arrive any minute."
In a mood that seems oddly reminiscent of morning announcements at a summer camp, last-minute reminders are interspersed with upbeat hassidic tunes. One group of youths lights a massive bonfire inside an arch leading to the eastern side of the neighborhood, while others look on, enjoying the welcome heat against the misty morning.
"Let's... let's go up and hold out on top of the roof," one young boy suggests to his friends and a group of older boys standing nearby, his voice full of excitement. The music is reminiscent of a wedding, and the youths, some of whom are practicing tying shirts as masks around their faces, bounce up and down in time with the tune.
The loudspeaker broadcasts switch moods - the man recites the Avinu Malkeinu prayer asking forgiveness for sins committed - which he follows by a series of "oaths of allegiance" accompanied by the IDF trumpet reveille as his voice declares allegiance to "Supreme Court Justice Beinisch. And the rotten and corrupt government" in mockery of IDF oaths taken following basic training.
Minutes later, as reports begin to spread that the soldiers and police are en route to the neighborhood, residents and protesters take their positions inside the apartments against the backdrop of booming classical music by notoriously anti-Semitic German composer Richard Wagner.
A few young mothers sit on the apartment's porch areas, allowing themselves and their babies a few moments of fresh air before re-entering the already crowded buildings.
After almost an hour of warnings that the "expulsion forces" are en route, police in riot gear begin to take up positions, lining up at the southern approach to the neighborhood. Local spokesmen dart back and forth, making sure that yellow-vested observers are in place to film the troops' every action. Now, the loudspeaker asks protesters to welcome "Yasam commanders Shadi and Kablan" as well as Judea and Samaria Border Police Chief Shlomi Even-Paz.
By the time the first wave of police move forward, the sun has risen over the neighborhood, evaporating the early morning dew in a lemony haze. A group of five youths are ready on the roof of the apartments, hurling rocks and chunks of cement at the most forward riot police, who duck behind their plexiglass shields.
But as quickly as they appeared, the youths vanish, leaving the rooftops empty. Border Police forces quickly scramble up in their place, securing the rooftop, and allowing Hebron District Police Chief Avshalom Peled to move forward with his men toward the first of the buildings to deliver the official evacuation notice as soldiers work to pry open the first door.
And then it begins, what has now become a rote ritual of paint throwing and water spraying, dragging screaming, kicking teenage girls out on their backs and chants of "death to the police."
As the sun rises higher into the morning sky, burning off the last of the mist, protesters and police alike grapple and pull, covered in ever-increasing layers of grey, oily mud - another day, another evacuation.
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