On Monday, September 12, Hafez, 52, and his 18-year-old son Mohammed were doing their daily routine work of toiling their land in at-Tuwani, Masafer Yatta, occupied West Bank, when five illegal Israeli settlers, some holding metal pipes while others armed with guns and an M16 rifle, invaded their land, brutally attacking him and his son.
First, the settlers broke both his arms. Then, Israeli military came to the scene and arrested Hafez Huraini.
We need your urgent help to #FreeHafezHuraini – A victim of settler violence imprisoned
Hafez Huraini is yet another Palestinian human rights defenders, who faces an apartheid system administrated by Israel’s military courts, where no fair trial and due process is possible. He is imprisoned because he stood up against apartheid and in a desperate attempt to stop Palestinian steadfastness in Masafer Yatta.
In an cruel twist of reality, Israel’s apartheid authorities hope to convict Hafez, the victim, of wrongdoing. Yet, in another surprising twist, days after, even Israeli media had to admit that it was the settlers who assaulted Hafez.
Hafez is currently in Ofer, Military Detention Center, Ramallah district, under interrogation. On Thursday, September 15, the Israeli Ofer Military Court extended his detention for five more days in interrogation.
We need your urgent help to free Hafez, to let apartheid Israel know that people across the world had enough of its impunity and that its persecution and ethnic cleansing of the people in Masafer Yatta will not pass.
Here’s what you can do:
- Write to your government’s foreign office/ministry and ask them to urgently act to ensure Hafez Huraini’s release.
- Mobilize support from human rights organisations, political parties, members of parliament, trade unions, church, and other civil society groups, asking them to help you put pressure on your government.
- Raise awareness on social media, use the hashtag #FreeHafezHuraini.
- Participate in the Global Days of Action, September 16-19, to #DefendMasaferYatta and for #UNinvestigateApartheid. Click here for social media graphics and messaging.
Here is what you should ask your governments to do:
Israel’s arrests of human rights defenders, like Hafez Huraini, is to a large extent a result of the failure of world powers to apply the effective accountability measures they have at their disposal to end Israel’s impunity and ensure its respect of International Law and Palestinian human rights.
Please, urge diplomatic missions and Ministries of Foreign Affairs to:
- To take all actions at their disposal to ensure Israel’s immediate and unconditional release of Palestinian human rights defender Hafez Huraini.
- Take part as observer at the hearings of Hafez Huraini’s trial by the military courts.
- Publicly condemn Israel for its policy of persecution and arbitrary arrest of human rights defenders, like Hafez Huraini, and the wider policies of apartheid and ethnic cleansing as implemented currently in Masafer Yatta.
Likewise, in view of the flagrant and systematic violations of human rights by Israel, please, insist your Foreign Ministry:
- Suspend arms trade and military security cooperation with Israel.
- Ban all trade with Israeli illegal settlements and ensure that companies refrain from or end their business with Israel’s illegal settlement industry in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
- Ensure that individuals and corporate agents responsible for war crimes / crimes against humanity in the context of Israel’s illegal occupation and apartheid regime are brought to justice.
The context of Hafez’ arrest
The attack on Hafez Huraini and his arrest are:
- A direct, targeted attack on a prominent Human Rights Defender: Israeli settlers know Hafez Huraini as a long-standing and leading nonviolent Palestinian human rights defender. He has been leading nonviolent organizing in the area, which effectively stopped apartheid Israel’s attempt to expel the communities in 1999 and the construction of its apartheid Wall in the area. He further succeeded in protecting the land, on which he was attacked, against the settlers long-standing efforts to confiscate it, by constantly cultivating it.
- An act of collective punishment: Hafez Huraini’s children and other family members are leading in the nonviolent efforts to stop Israel’s current illegal plan of ethnic cleansing, and this is clearly an effort to pressure them and threaten them.
- Rising persecution of Palestinians through state-backed settler violence in Masafer Yatta: State-backed settler violence has been increasing dramatically across the West Bank over recent years. In Masafer Yatta in particular, even before May 4, 2022 , when the Israeli Supreme Court gave the green light for the ethnic cleansing of over 1000 Palestinians in Masafer Yatta, settler violence has been on the rise in terms of numbers of attacks and in brutality. In one of the most violent attacks, less than a year ago, settlers crushed the skull of a toddler in Khirbet al Mufaraqah.
- Part of the Israeli ethnic cleansing policy of Masafer Yatta: Especially since May 4, Israeli military, state authorities and state-backed settlers have increased persecution of Palestinians at all levels, including demolitions, night raids, military checkpoints, destruction of crops and confiscation of cattle in order to force them to leave the area and to ethnically cleanse the area of what Israel defined as Firing Zone 918. Arbitrary arrests are part of this strategy of ethnic cleansing..
Who is Hafez Huraini?
Hafez, a father of eight children, is a long-standing human rights defender and community leader in Masafer Yatta.
In 2000, Hafez took part in reviving the non-violent resistance movement in Masafer Yatta. The movement was formed to resist increasing Israeli displacement of Palestinians, especially after the forcible expulsion of more than 700 Palestinians from their homes located in the so-called Firing Zone 918 in Masafer Yatta.
In 2004, the Israeli occupation started constructing an 82-meters high and 41-long wall, which is part of the Apartheid Wall built across the West Bank, along the bypass road of 317 in Masafer Yatta. Hafez played a key role in organizing and leading protests against its construction.
Thanks to two years of relentless non-violent protest, the Israeli authorities had to demolish the Wall, which aimed to isolate Masafer Yatta from the rest of the West Bank in 2006.
Hafez Huraini’s fields are located on the outskirts of Al-Tuwani, adjacent to the illegal Israeli settlement outpost of Havat Ma’oun. Ensuring that his land is constantly cultivated has proven an effective way to protect it from confiscation. Yet, his non-violent acts of resistance have always been met with repeated and systemic settler violence. Settlers have numerous times invaded his land and uprooted the trees he and his family cultivate.
As a result of defending his land and his people’s human rights, Hafez was arrested and violently assaulted several times in the past few decades. Once, the Israeli army arrested Hafez simply because he defied a military order preventing him from entering his own land.
On August 2, 2022, UN experts released a report in which they warned against Israeli increased harassment of human rights defenders in Masafer Yatta. The experts particularly expressed concern about Hafez’ son. Israeli persecution of his son, the UN experts stated, “shows an aggravating trend of Israel’s criminalisation and harassment of human rights defenders, aimed at silencing them and rooting out human rights work in the region.”
Hafez Huraini’s arrest
Monday, September 12:
Hafez and his 18-year-old son Mohammed were doing their daily routine of toiling their land, when five illegal Israeli settlers, some were holding metal pipes while others were armed with guns and an M16 rifle, invaded their land and brutally attacked him and his son. Aware of the brutal violence meted out by the settlers from Havat Ma’on and other illegal settlements in the area, Hafez feared for his and his sons life and tried to defend himself but the settlers broke his left arm with a metal baton, after which he fell to the ground. The settlers kept hitting Hafez until they broke his other arm. Then, one of the armed settlers started firing in the air.
Shortly after, tens of Israeli soldiers joined the settlers and prevented the ambulance of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society that had arrived to bring medical aid to Hafez from loading him into the ambulance. According to Sami, the elder son of Hafez and co-founder of the non-violent grassroots group of Youth of Sumud, “the settlers pulled out a knife and stabbed the tires of the ambulance so it couldn’t move,” before the soldiers arrested him.
Right after the attack, Israeli media published inaccurate news that supported the false claims of settlers blaming Hafez for being the aggressor. However, on September 14, in a rare admission of reality, Israeli media had to partially retract first reports following the spread of a video by Palestinians on social media showing how armed settlers stormed Hafez’s land and started assaulting him.
Thursday, 15 September, 2022:
Israeli Ofer Military Court extended the detention of Palestinian human rights defender Hafez Huraini for five more days of interrogation.
Currently, Hafez is held with two broken arms in Ofer Prison and Detention Center near Ramallah, undergoing interrogation and enduring ill-treatment. The lawyer of Hafez could only speak to him for a few minutes twice: On the day of his arrest and during today’s court hearing.
The ethnic cleansing of Masafer Yatta
On May 4, the Israeli High Court ruled in favour of the ethnic cleansing of some 1,300 Palestinians living in eight villages in the area of Masafer Yatta.
Masafar Yatta, in the south of Hebron, is home to 20 Palestinian communities, which have been living and herding their livestock in the area since generations. They have been struggling against displacement for over 40 years.
In 1981, Israel declared 3000 ha of the 3600 ha that make up Masafar Yatta as military Firing Zone 918.
In 1999, 700 residents of Firing Zone 918 were evicted but the struggle of the people in Masafer Yatta achieved an interim injunction of the eviction so that the residents could return to live in and rebuild their homes.
After over 20 years of court procedures, the May ruling by the Supreme Court, has given a green light for the implementation of the largest expulsions carried out by the Israeli apartheid regime since the 1967.
Settler violence in Masafer Yatta
What happened on September 12, is part of a series of systemic settler and army violence against the Huraini family to force them from their land. For decades, Hafez and his family, like many in Masafer Yatta, have been struggling to protect their land from Israeli confiscation to expand the illegal settlement of Ma’on and Havat Ma’on.
Since the beginning of the year, settlers have attacked entire villages, farmers and shepherds dozens of times in Masafer Yatta.
Since the May 4 court ruling, Israeli violence has escalated against Palestinians in Masafer Yatta at large and in the eight villages in particular. Although Al-Tuwani is not one of the affected villages by the court ruling, its location as a gateway to the rest of Masafer Yatta; as well as the role of the non-violence movement of resistance in it has made human rights defenders a subject of increased Israeli violence and persecution.
In one of the most violent attacks, on September 28, settlers from Havat Ma’on, the same settlement from where Hafez Huraini’s assailants came from, crushed the skull of a 3-year- old toddler in Khirbet al Mufaraqah. His cousin, Usayed Hamamdeh (3), was injured in the shoulder, and another cousin, Sawsan Hamamdeh (3), was hit in the face and arm. Another 9 Palestinians were injured.
The last time, settlers attacked Al-Tuwani was on August 8, when Israeli settlers stormed Al-Tuwani in large numbers under the protection of the Israeli army.
It is common that settlers “hunt horses, kill sheep, poison animals, cut trees, burn pastures, while on the other hand the Army destroys homes, storages, wells and water supplies,” according to locals from Masafer Yatta.In 2021 OCHA documented nearly 500 attacks by Israeli settlers resulting in four Palestinian fatalities, 175 injuries and extensive property damage. This is the highest level since OCHA started recording settler-related violence in 2005, and represents a 40 and 50 per cent increase in the number of incidents compared with 2020 and 2019, respectively.