Several weeks ago, the Israeli Defense Force placed a guard post (pillbox) in the heart of the Palestinian village of Khursa in the West Hebron Hills. The guard post was placed in order to protect vehicles of the Negohot settlers, who drive through area A in order to shorten the way between Jerusalem and the South Hebron Hills. It is important to note that Israelis are prohibited from entering area A and a clear sign in the area indicates that entry to area A by Israelis is a criminal offense.
Peace Now: “The placing of a guard post in area A is a blatant violation of the Oslo Accords and shows the length the Israeli government is willing to go in order to help a handful of settlers take a shortcut on their way home. The new IDF guard post illustrates, yet again, that the settlements do not contribute to Israel’s security, but rather pose a national security burden.”
The village of Khursa and its surroundings are considered a part of area A, which, according to the interim agreement from 1995, is under the Palestinian Authority’s civil and security control, and the IDF is cannot operate there. Since the beginning of the second intifada, the IDF has been operating in area A, while violating the interim agreement, mainly through specific tasks such as arrests, but did not place permanent guard posts in it. An exception to this is the area of H1 in Hebron, which in essence is similar to area A, where several permanent guard posts are placed since the beginning of the second intifada.
The road in which the guard post was placed is road number 3265, connecting route 60 in the Adoraim junction and the village of Beit Awwa in the West Hebron Hills. Originally, the road was meant to connect the villages of the West Hebron Hills with Hebron but in the late 90s, after the establishment of the Negohot settlement, settlers have begun using the road as well. In the early 2000s, at the beginning of the second intifada, the road was sealed. It was then when the Head of the Central Command issued an order prohibiting Israelis from entering area A.
The Negohot settlers and the Hebron Hills regional council pressured the government for years, demanding the opening of the road in order shorten the travel time between Jerusalem and Negohot. Gradually, the IDF opened the road and approved travel through it for settlers with IDF escort (mainly public transportation and school buses). Over time, settlers began to use the road without authorization or coordination. Recently, the guard post was established in area A in order to protect the settlers.
Beyond violating the Oslo Accords, the placing of the guard post creates a permanent Israeli presence in area A, something which will affect the lives of Palestinians in the area. The residents of Khursa find themselves today dealing with constant IDF presence nearby them which is likely to lead to increased tensions and confrontations.
It is worth noting that the settlements of Negohot is considered illegal. The settlement was established in 1999 when settlers began to reside in the area of an IDF Nachal settlement as they were establishing a Jewish studies institute there. The settlement does not have construction plans and thus construction in it is considered illegal. In 2013, a jurisdiction was approved for the settlement and a retroactive legalization process of the settlement in currently underway.