Sat. May 28th, 2022

Hebron, Occupied West Bank – Suleiman al-Hathaleen, 73, never shyed away from an opportunity to confront Israeli forces in Masafer Yatta, Hebron, in the occupied West Bank.

With a white scarf covering his long gray hair and nothing more than a wooden stick in one hand, Suleiman was often seen trying desperately to stop Israeli bulldozers from tearing down Palestinian homes, or tractors for Palestinian ones. to destroy land.

Although he could not read or write or use the internet, the late Suleiman, locally known as “Sheikh” or “Hajj” Suleiman, was well connected.

On January 17, some 15,000 Palestinians attended his funeral in his hometown of Umm al-Khair, a village north of Masafer Yatta, two weeks after he was – allegedly intentionally – run over by an Israeli trailer.

Suleiman’s 60-year-old brother, Ibrahim, said the turnout at the funeral was unprecedented for Masafer Yatta.

“The communities of southern Hebron have never seen anything like it,” Ibrahim told Al Jazeera.

Suleiman Hathalin's funeralMourners attend Suleiman Hathaleen’s funeral procession in Umm al Khair on 18 January [Louy Alsaeed/Al Jazeera]

Home to some 7,000 Palestinians, Masafer Yatta’s Palestinian communities are at the forefront of a struggle for survival amid Israeli efforts to expropriate them, including by refusing to connect them to water and electricity networks.

“He [Suleiman] would be at the forefront with the young men behind him, ”Ibrahim recalls, describing him as an influential icon and a mobilizer of the Palestinian street. “He would lie on the ground to prevent military vehicles from moving to demolish Palestinian homes.”

Suleiman was fatally injured on January 5 when an Israeli tow truck overturned him in Umm al-Khair during a raid by dozens of Israeli army jeeps in the town to seize unregistered Palestinian vehicles.

The truck “drove over him and dragged his body for several meters without stopping”, According to a statement by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA).

Israeli forces fired shots into the air to disperse the crowd protesting the raid, and quickly withdrew from the village, leaving its thriving body on the ground. Due to the lack of ambulance services in the town, he was taken in a private car to the nearest medical clinic, about 15 km (9 miles) away.

He died after 12 days in hospital in Hebron.

Carmel settlement in Masafer YattaMuntaser, Suleiman’s 34-year-old son, described his father as “at the forefront of anti-occupation protests” [Louy Alsaeed/Al Jazeera]

The family, who believe the attack was intentional, are filing a case in Israeli courts against the truck driver and the policeman who did not give treatment.

More than two weeks later, Israeli police have not yet questioned the Israeli truck driver. Police say they are investigating the incident with input from the prosecutor’s office, According to Israeli media.

UNOCHA said Suleiman “protested peacefully on the road” and “would have been clearly visible to both the truck driver and the [Israeli] officers ”, adding that there is no indication that Israeli forces offered him any assistance,“ because they simply left the area immediately after the incident ”.

‘Information Collection Room’

Suleiman leaves behind three brothers, seven sons and three daughters and nearly 30 grandchildren. He mobilized a group of them to inform him of planned protests and to set up an “information gathering room”.

His 34-year-old son Muntaser said he was his father’s companion and described him as “at the forefront of anti-occupation protests”.

“I have been accused of collecting dates and places for protests everywhere. “I woke up early in the morning and brought all the details with me,” he told Al Jazeera.

“I sometimes hid protest dates from him out of concern for his health, given his old age, but when he found out, he was very angry, so I had to stop,” he continued.

“The house has lost its solid foundation,” Muntaser said.

Carmel settlement in Masafer YattaThe community is home to about 1,000 residents, most of whom were expelled from Arad in the Naqab (Negev) in 1948. [Louy Alsaeed/Al Jazeera]

Umm al-Khair, a village of about 1,000 inhabitants, became Suleiman’s new home after he, his parents and his younger brother were forcibly forced by Zionist militias from the town of Arad in the Naqab (Negev) during the 1948 war. desert was displaced around the state of Israel.

In the 1980s, the Israeli army began building the illegal nearby settlement of Carmel at the expense of Umm al-Khair’s lands, which launched another family battle.

Like other Palestinian communities in Masafer Yatta, Umm al-Khair lacks basic necessities such as electricity, water, infrastructure, education and health facilities, and residents are prevented from building permanent homes, forcing them to live in tin huts and tents.

Meanwhile, the Carmel settlement is a green oasis full of playgrounds and parks, and a chicken farm that runs on electricity.

Suleiman’s house is only three meters (10 feet) away from the settlement. He was the victim of dozens of attacks by settlers, who were protected by the occupation army and police.

Over the past few years, there have been more than 15 demolitions in Umm al-Khair.

Carmel settlement in Masafer YattaThe illegal Carmel settlement in Masafer Yatta was built on Umm al-Khair land [Louy Alsaeed/Al Jazeera]

“If we do not resist, who will?”

Fouad al-Amour, 38, first met Suleiman in 2018 and accompanied him on his journey of resistance for about five years.

Together with several villagers, they established the Protection and Resilience Committee in Masafer Yatta to fight Israeli policy of systematic displacement against Palestinian residents.

Al-Amour said they, using the committee’s cameras, “documented the demolition of Palestinian homes”, exposing the practices and crimes of the occupying forces against Palestinian residents, which is a deterrent to settler attacks in form the area ”.

“He was our backbone in every step we took,” al-Amour told Al Jazeera, noting that Suleiman called him the day before he was run over to arrange an event in the village of Umm Zaytouna where Israeli forces houses demolished.

“If we do not resist, who will?” al-Amour recalls that Suleiman said regularly.

Carmel settlement in Masafer YattaIsraeli authorities develop settlement of Carmel at the expense of nearby Palestinian communities such as Umm al-Khair [Louy Alsaeed/Al Jazeera]

“Sheikh Suleiman not only took part in events in Masafer Yatta – he was present in all demonstrations inside and outside the [Hebron] governor, from the far south to the far north, ”al-Amour explained.

He noted that Suleiman “usually woke up on protest days at dawn and was the first to arrive. He would refrain from eating and drinking until the event ended, saying,” I have my day to God and land. given, and it will remain for God and land. “

“In 2021 alone, Sheikh Suleiman has been detained more than 60 times and dozens of excessive fines have been imposed on him,” al-Amour said.

“The Israeli army targeted Sheikh Suleiman at the beginning of protests or Israeli demolitions. “They would detain him, beat him and take him to an unknown location until the event or demolition was over because they knew he was the general manager behind the protests,” he continued.

“The Sheikh’s resistance to occupying forces was peaceful. He did not use the stick he was carrying or stones. “

Ibrahim described his late brother Suleiman as “an obstacle that prevented them [Israel’s] policy of Palestinian displacement ”, which has now been removed from the scene.

Yet he said he proudly remembers that Suleiman and his companions “showed the world in the clearest way their heinous crimes against the Palestinian people”.

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