Israel military seals off home of Palestinian human rights defender for complaining of harassment

The home of non-violent activist Issa Amro is now within a ‘closed military zone’ after he complains of harassment during harvest

Inset: human rights defender Issa Amro; main image: Israeli soldiers search a Palestinian in Tel Rumeida. Used under Creative Commons Licence 3.0

Israeli forces have surrounded and isolated the home of Issa Amro, a leading – and UN-recognised – advocate of Palestinian human rights and non-violent resistance and civil disobedience against Israel’s occupation, in the Tel Rumeida area of Hebron in the occupied West Bank.

Late on Monday 31 October, Israeli soliders sealed off the home of Amro’s inside a ‘closed military zone’ (CMZ) ordered by the Israeli authorities on an area of roughly 55 square meters immediately surrounding the home.

The military presented the CMZ order a day after Amro attempted to file a complaint at the local Israeli police station about harassment directed at him by Israeli settlers and soldiers during the local olive harvest. The house, located directly next to an Israeli settlement and army base, doubles as the community center of the local Palestinian direct action group Youth Against Settlements (YAS).

A CMZ order prevents any person from entering without a permit, including journalists, medical personnel and family members. Amro’s house is located . The house is a well known meeting point of international and Israeli delegations, a training center for local volunteers, and a community center for Palestinians living in Hebron’s most restricted areas.

In a statement released about the Israeli move, Amro said:

Israeli settlers have long been asking the Israeli military to close my house in Tel Rumeida.

They don’t want me to talk to any international and Israeli audiences about the Israeli apartheid and the Israeli occupation.

Amro added that he is now isolated and afraid to leave the house – and that he has faced death threats by Israeli soldiers and settlers since the closure.

‘Gas the Arabs!’ daubed on a Palestinian home by settlers. Image by Magne Hagesæter, used under Creative Commons Licence 3.0

In the weeks and days leading up to the CMZ order, Amro says that Israeli settlers:

  • attacked him and fellow volunteers with clubs and rocks
  • took the phone of another YAS activist
  • targeted Amro’s house through rock-throwing, and
  • made an illegal bonfire on private Palestinian land

Amro reports multiple death threats from Israeli soldiers. On Sunday 30 October, Amro went to the local Israeli police station to file a complaint, but was turned away. Hebron’s yearly olive harvest is vital for the community’s livelihood, as well as an important tradition and part of the Palestinians’ rich cultural life .

This is not the first such display of control and intimidation directed at Amro’s home. In late 2015, the Israeli military also declared the house and much of the surrounding Tel Rumeida neighborhood a CMZ. After six months of international campaigning and sit-in protests, the order was lifted and the YAS center was reopened for activity.

Yet most military restrictions in the neighborhood have remained in place. Issa Amro is the co-founder and former coordinator of the Hebron-based Youth Against Settlements initiative. A staunch advocate of non-violent resistance and civil disobedience, in 2010 he was declared ‘Human Rights Defender of the year in Palestine’ by the UN Commissioner for Human Rights and is formally recognized as such by the European Union. In 2016, Amro was indicted by Israel on 18 charges condemned by Amnesty International as ‘baseless’ and ‘politically-motivated’.

He was convicted of six charges in 2021, including three counts of ‘participating in a protest without a permit’, pending appeal.

Meanwhile in the UK, the Tory government is busy planning to outlaw participation by UK bodies and groups in the peaceful Palestinian ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’ (BDS) campaign. Recently leaked documents indicate that Keir Starmer’s Labour party will support the Tory move.

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