Tuesday, July 21, 2009

10 Arrested in Defiance of Continued Closure in Saffa

Late Saturday morning, Beit Ommar village residents, along with activists from Israeli organizations’ Ta’ayush and Anarchists Against the Wall (AATW) and a large group of international activists, including several from Palestine Solidarity Project, entered farmland in the Saffa area in order to challenge the continued illegal use of temporary closed military zone orders in the area. These orders put a financial strain on the farmers whom are often unable to harvest their land, and provide no protection against settler attacks on the land (which the military claims is their reasoning for establishing a permanent presence in the area).

After over an hour of intense negotiation with the commanders of the military unit revolving around accompanying the farmers and their family while they pick to protect against further settler attack, several family members of farmers were allowed to enter the land but without Israeli or international accompaniment. Ten Israeli activists sat down in opposition to this decision, and were later arrested by border police and released two hours after being taken to Gush Etzion police station. Despite the arrests, the event was calm, with no injuries or violent repression by the soldiers to report.

Activists were also challenging the lack of protection against settler attacks on the land and on the farmers who harvest the land, which soldiers stationed in a temporary outpost below the Bat ’Ayn settlement have promised to provide. Earlier in the week, settlers had set fire to roughly 160 dunums of land (40 acres), including several valuable fruit trees. Combined with the cutting of over 125 trees in June, and an earlier fire, in the last month settlers have destroyed nearly all of the land that provides income for 125 extended family members. While dozens of Israeli and international activists have been arrested during that month accompanying the farmers, not a single settler has been arrested for their crimes. Saffa farmers have also been under threat of physical attack by settlers, as there have been incidences of injury on several occasions in the past three months, including a vicious attack in early April that left 81 year old Abdullah Soleiby with a cracked skull.

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