One Israeli soldier serving duty in H2 described the settlers as "lawless thugs". Approximately 5,000 Palestinians, who live in the Old City in close proximity to the settlers' quarters, are victims to the worst of this harassment. Settlers ransack shops, cut electricity lines and water pipes and wreck cars, and attack schoolchildren. The settlers are convinced of the righteousness, indeed divine duty of "judaising" what they call "the city of the Forefathers" – a reference to the tombs of Abraham and Sarah that stand in the Ibrahimi Mosque ("Ma'arat haMakhpela" in Jewish tradition) in the heart of the Old City. They are supported in their endeavour by a generous Israeli government policy that grants them ca 4000 Israeli army troops for their security needs.
Israeli society at large, however, views this settler community as extreme and fanatical. A coalition of left-wing groups are engaged in restraining the free hand that the government gives the Hebron settlers. Yesh Gvul, the conscientious objectors' organization, supported by other groups and by former Knesset member Mossi Raz, has appealed to the Supreme Court to prevent the demolitions ordered by the construction of the "settlers' promenade".
Following a petition by the shopkeepers in November, defended by Israeli lawyer Shlomo Lecker, the Supreme Court has recommended that the Israeli army find private arrangements with the shopkeepers rather than go to court. The army spokesperson has upheld the position that the closure of the Old City Market was necessary for security reasons. Obviously sensing that justice was not in its favour, the army allowed for the symbolic reopening of three shops last week, belonging to AlQudsi, Za'tari and Ajaj families. The settlers, provoked by this "failure of Israel to defend the Jewish heritage of Hebron," took the law into their hands on February 7, hoping to intimidate the shopkeepers into staying shut. The settlers are rarely punished for such excesses, making settler violence an accepted tool of the State.