During this last week, settlers from Bat Ayin destroyed over 100 fruit trees belonging to the Palestinian town of Khirbeit Safa. For the last few months there has been regular violence and harassment against residents of Safa following the murder of a boy from Bat Ayin. The man who committed the murder had been apprehended quickly, but revenge attacks against the entire village continued.
The Palestinian farmers have been consistently prevented by the Israeli Army and Border Police from working their fields, which lie between Safa and Bat Ayin. This is contrary to an Israeli Supreme Court ruling that the IDF should not order Closed Military Zone’s that prevent Palestinians from agricultural work. The Border Police and IDF have issued Closed Military Zone’s over the fields of Safa on an almost continual basis since the beginning of April.
This morning members of the Israeli-Palestinian group Taayush, along with other activists and internationals attempted to accompany residents of Safa onto their farmland. Israeli soldiers and Border Police numbering at least 30 were already there when we arrived, and immediately proclaimed a Closed Military Zone. Initially they said that if the Israelis and internationals left, 3 residents of Safa would be permitted to stay and work. This number quickly went down to zero whereupon they resorted to force in trying to remove us from the area, shoving and grabbing men, women and children. The activists and Palestinians non-violently resisted and a number refused to leave, resulting in 15 Israelis being arrested.
In the course of the struggle, Border Police threw people to the ground, grabbed people’s throats, and one Israeli had her arm twisted behind her back causing a serious sprain. One Palestinian man who was thrown to the ground, bloodying his face, had his leg broken through IDF aggressiveness. I overheard one Border Policeman say to a distraught Palestinian, “stop the theater”.
As we left the fields and entered the town of Safa, the soldiers and Border Police followed and said we also had to leave there. The Border Police escorted our cars to the entrance of Beit Ummar. When we got out of our cars, they presented us with another Closed Military Zone order for Beit Ummar. They also claimed that our driver had entered “Area A” by coming so close to Beit Ummar. In fact, although the IDF has put a sign up at the entrance that Beit Ummar is “Area A”, it is actually “Area B” as can be seen on all official maps. Furthermore, our driver is not an Israeli citizen, but has Jerusalem residency, which grants him the right to enter “Area A” if he wanted to. Our driver was threatened with arrest under these false charges.
The Police then took his ID and said we would have to come to the Etzion Police Station to get it. We all went to the station, where we found our members who had been arrestted earlier. We were all detained at the station, totaling 30 people. Two of those who had been arrested told me that after their arrest the Border Police brought them to the station. However, along the way, two Border Police stopped the vehicle, took out 3 activists and proceeded to beat them. One was punched in the face, another was hit on the head with a baton, and a third was hit and was pulled by his hair.
They wanted to file a complaint against the officers who did it, who made a countercomplaint. Our group was not told why were being held or given any information. We were in the police station for 3 hours before we were all released without charges.
A video clip I took of Border Policeman twisting Taayush activist’s arm
(All Photos Taken by Mairav Zonszein)