On July 7, 2009 at approximately 5pm, an Israeli military official called the mayor of Beit Ommar and informed him that settlers had set fire to some trees in the Abu Jabber Soleiby land in Saffa, just under the illegal Bat ‘Ayn settlement. Three international activists, an Israeli activist and a Palestinian resident of Beit Ommar went down into the valley to investigate and document the destruction, and two international activists went to the top of the hill to watch for settlers. When we reached the land two army jeeps were already waiting for us. One soldier approached us and told us to leave. We did not find evidence of a new fire, and began leaving the area. The soldier belligerently harrassed us as he walked us out of the valley, and at one point threw a sound grenade at our feet.
Half-way up the hill soldiers ambushed us from behind, capturing two internationals and the Israeli. I managed to get away with the one Palestinian in the group, and the two of us sprinted up the hill. We reached the top where the farmers were gathered and met up with the two internationals who had gone to scout for settlers. We piled on the tractor and tried to reenter the village, but two army jeeps had blocked the entrance, preventing us from leaving the valley. We climbed off the tractor and tried to pass the soldiers on foot, but the soldiers ran up and tackeled us to the ground. I was wrestled into handcuffs and dragged into the army jeep. One international was hit in the head with a gun and the other kicked in the leg before being brought to join me. We were never shown a paper declaring the area a Closed Military Zone, and were arrested by soldiers rather than policemen, both of which are illegal under Israeli law. We were then told that if we spoke or lifted our heads they would "fucking kill us," and the jeeps drove out of the village while the children pelted them with rocks. We were taken to the police station in the illegal Etzion settlement.
The three activists arrested in the valley were held on the ground until a commander could run up and show them a paper, insisting it was a closed military zone order, though no one was allowed to look at it closely and the group was already detained and not allowed to leave, also in violation of military procedures. A soldier then said to the one Israeli activist, who is married to a Palestinian, “your father didn’t teach you what to do with your pussy so you went and fucked Arabs.” Police arrived and arrested the three of them, parading them through the Bat ‘Ayn settlement before taking them back to theEtzion police station. At one point soldiers stopped the jeep in the settlement and opened the back doors in front of a group of settler youth.
Five of us (all but the Israeli) were first offered release on the condition that we stay out of the area for 2 weeks, and then were eventually released without any conditions. A commander, who was not present until after the arrests, filed a complaint claiming that the Israeli activist had slapped one of his soldiers, though the soldier himself said he wasn’t sure if it was intentional or if he’d been hit while trying to grab her during her illegal arrest. She was taken to a court after 23.5 hours (Israeli citizens can only be held for 24 hours before being brought in front of a judge), and released without conditions. Not pleased with the results, police, in collusion with the prosecution, refused to process her release, causing her to be put back into the Jerusalem prison for more than three additional hours.
The attempt to prevent “left-wing activists” (as we were described in the police reports) from entering the area in the end was totally rejected by the court. But the next day when farmers attempted to enter the land, which has been legally open to them for the last 10 days, they were refused entry by the Israeli military without cause or paperwork.