A bus carrying Israeli students on a tour of the West Bank city of Hebron, organized by the left-wing Breaking the Silence NGO, was pelted with stones by Palestinians on Friday afternoon.
Hebrew media reports said three female students were lightly injured in the attack, and were given treatment at the nearby settlement of Kiryat Arba. But the Magen David Adom emergency services said just one woman in her early 20s was treated for a scratch, after the stones shattered the windows of the bus.
The controversial combat veterans’ NGO, which documents alleged abuses by Israel Defense Forces troops against Palestinians, told the Ynet news website in response to the attack that “this is the reality in the territories, and we are working to change it.”
The Hebron area has seen near-daily car-ramming, stabbing and rock-throwing attacks since October.
Breaking the Silence is a group whose members are veteran IDF combatants who report, mostly anonymously, about alleged abuses they witnessed or took part in during their military service in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip. Since the NGO was founded in 2004, it has regularly locked horns with the Israeli political and military brass, which regularly denounces its activities as harming Israel’s image abroad.
Palestinian stone throwers also pelted the car of Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fuad Twal as he arrived in Bethlehem for Christmas celebrations. No passengers were injured, but damage was caused to the vehicle.
In May, Breaking the Silence angered the military establishment by publishing a report accusing the army of having caused an unprecedented number of civilian casualties through indiscriminate force during Operation Protective Edge. The IDF responded to the rights group’s report by saying it was “committed to properly investigating” all claims against it, but also cautioned that Breaking the Silence’s method of gathering evidence was faulty.
On December 14, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon announced that he was banning the group from events attended by Israeli soldiers. Addressing what he described as attempts to “vilify” Israeli soldiers abroad, Ya’alon decried on Facebook the “hypocrisy and deceitful propaganda against IDF soldiers and the State of Israel, which is part of the delegitimization campaign against us.”
A day later, Education Minister Naftali Bennett of the right-wing Jewish Home party banned the organization from schools.
Ya’alon’s condemnation came on the heels of an uproar by right-wing activists over President Reuven Rivlin’s speech at the Haaretz conference in New York, at which members of Breaking the Silence were also scheduled to appear.
The controversy over Breaking the Silence, which is at the eye of a storm on the limits of free speech in Israel, reached the hallowed halls of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem on Tuesday night, when a fight broke out between right- and left-wing students during a lecture by a representative of the organization.
The Hebron area has been a hotbed of attacks on Israelis, according to figures recently released by the Shin Bet security service, which showed a large number of incidents in the area and a high percentage of assailants come from the southern West Bank. Some 25 Israelis have been killed in terror attacks since the violence broke out in October.