Israel Resource Review 26th December, 2006


Exclusive: Bethlehem Fears Return of Deported Terrorits
[Syrian-Iranian Nuclear Connection?]
Jerusalem Post Staff, THE JERUSALEM POST December 26, 2006

Reports that Israel is considering allowing a group of gunmen who were deported in 2002 after hiding inside the Church of the Nativity to return home have left some Christian residents here seriously concerned for their safety.

Thirteen of the gunmen were deported to different European countries, while another 26 were expelled to the Gaza Strip. The gunmen, belonging to both Fatah and Hamas, were holed up in the church for 39 days before European mediators reached a deal with Israel according to which the fugitives would be permitted to walk out unharmed.

On Saturday, Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat announced that the deportees would soon be allowed to return to Bethlehem. The announcement was made following the summit between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in Jerusalem.

While most Muslim residents here welcomed the news about the impending return of the gunmen, some Christian families expressed fear that the deportees would once again impose a reign of intimidation and terror in the city.

"What a wonderful Christmas gift from Father Christmas, Ehud Olmert," commented a local businessman. "These men were responsible for a spate of attacks on Christians, including extortion and confiscation of property."

He said the biggest threat came from those gunmen belonging to Fatah's armed wing, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, whose members often targeted "peaceful" Christians.

"I'm aware that most Christians living here are afraid to speak publicly about the issue, but the overwhelming majority was not unhappy when these thugs were deported from the city," he added. "Now some people here are once again worried because of the reports that they will return. They remember all the bad things that happened to the Christians when these gunmen were roaming the streets. People also remember how the gunmen mistreated the monks and nuns who were held hostage during the raid."

The families of the Bethlehem deportees have been campaigning for the past four years to allow their sons to return home. The issue has been raised several times during meetings between Israeli and PA officials, but no solution was ever found.

Former prime minister Ariel Sharon agreed at the 2005 Sharm e-Sheikh summit with Abbas to the formation of a joint committee that would discuss and solve the problem of the deportees.

Mary, who works in a local tourist agency, said not all the deportees were involved in anti-Christian actions.

"Some of them were good boys, but there were a few who used their guns and rifles for criminal purposes," said the 44-year-old woman. "Some residents are now worried that these guys will return to the streets of Bethlehem. We heard that one of them, who is now in Europe, was involved in the murder of two Christian sisters in Beit Jala."

Tony [not his real name], who owns a small souvenir shop near Manger Square, said he and many of his fellow Christians used to live in fear when the gunmen were around.

"They used to take cigarettes and other goods for free from my neighbors," he recalled. "When they were deported from the city, there was a sigh of relief not only among Christians, but some Muslims as well. Let's hope that when they come back, they will return to normal life."

The few Christians who agreed to go on the record had only words of praise for the gunmen.

"They are heroes," said Bishara Hazboun, a 22-year-old university student. "There's no difference between Christians and Muslims and we are all one people. Some people have been trying to defame the fighters by spreading all kinds of lies against them. I never saw them do any harm."

Printer friendly version of this article

Return to Contents

Letter to Irene Khan, Director of Amnesty International

December 26, 2006

Ms. Irene Khan Amnesty International Fax: 44-20-79561157 1 212 463 91931 212 627 1451

Dear Ms. Khan,

Amnesty International's declared objective is a "vision of a world in which every person enjoys all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards". []

Accordingly, we have no choice but to express our deep dismay at the fact that during your recent visit to Hebron (December, 2006), you did not see fit to visit the Jewish Community of Hebron and speak with representatives of the community.

As we are sure you are aware, Hebron's Jewish community dates to the days of antiquity, with a continuous Jewish population for thousands of years. In August of 1929 sixty-seven Jews were slaughtered and over 70 injured by their Arab neighbors. The survivors were expelled from the city. Men, women and children were butchered, raped, burned and tortured. The ancient Jewish quarter was destroyed and its holy sites desecrated.

Some 25 years ago Hebron's Jewish community was renewed in parts of the destroyed Jewish neighborhoods and Jewish families returned to live in Jewish homes following transfer of ownership deeds by the property's owners to the community.

The Hebron Jewish community has suffered tremendously as the result of constant attacks by Arab terrorists belonging to terror organizations. Unfortunately, it seems that you are unaware of this fact, as a result of your decision to see Hebron from a very prejudiced point of view, speaking with one side only, thereby ignoring the human rights and suffering of the city's Jewish residents.

You write [ ]: "the movements of tens of thousands of Palestinian residents depend entirely on the decision of the Israeli soldiers. Often the Palestinian residents are placed under curfew, which do not apply to the 500 Israeli settlers who live in the area."

This is untrue. An overwhelming majority of Hebron and Hebron's Arab residents are under rule of the Palestinian Authority. Arabs have free access to the entire city, whereas Jews have access to only about 10% of Hebron. Also, Hebron's Arabs have not been placed under curfew in years. Curfews are imposed only following massive terror attacks in the area. When there is no terror, there are no curfews.

You write: Wire nets have been placed over the narrow alleys, separating Jewish settlers from Palestinian shops, to prevent the settlers hurling objects and excrement at the Palestinian and international visitors.

Perhaps the wire nets have been placed to prevent Arabs below from hurling rocks, hand grenades, and bombs into Jewish homes, or to prevent terrorists from easily climbing into the Jewish neighborhoods?

You write: We keep our visit short because it is past sunset and it is not advisable to stay in the area after dark.

Why is it not advisable to stay in the area after dark? Who are you afraid of? Who told you that night is dangerous in Hebron. When was the last time an Arab was shot at or attacked by Jews in Hebron, during the day, or at night?

We strongly protest the description of your visit in Hebron, the conclusions you so arbitrarily reached, and the fact that you refuse to meet and discuss the issues involved with representatives of Hebron's Jewish community. Should you decide to fulfill Amnesty's "vision," as quoted above, and objectively examine current issues in Hebron, we would be happy to invite you to meet with us in order to show you, first-hand, the hardships that Hebron's Jews have to deal with on a daily basis.

It would be advisable for Amnesty International to remain a neutral, objective organization and not act so irresponsibly as to draw conclusions before carefully examining the facts and hearing all the parties involved.


Noam Arnon David Wilder Spokesmen The Jewish Community of Hebron P.O. Box 105, Kiryat Arba 90100 Israel 972-2-9965333

Printer friendly version of this article

Return to Contents

Go to the Israel Resource Review homepage

The Israel Resource Review is brought to you by the Israel Resource, a media firm based at the Bet Agron Press Center in Jerusalem, and the Gaza Media Center under the juristdiction of the Palestine Authority.
You can contact us on