Yesterday morning members of Taayush split up into two groups. One group went to Khirbet Safa, and the other group – which I was in – went to Umm Zeitouneh.
Umm Zeitouneh is a valley between the outpost of Ma’on, and the barn that is shared by Ma’on and the settlement of Susya. The settlers from Ma’on have a history of violence against Palestinians, and our goal was to try to prevent any attacks on them. We were accompanying Palestinian shepherds from the village of Tubah who had brought their sheep out to graze. Some of the young shepherds, boys of 14 and up, had in the past been attacked by settlers on their way to school.
Luckily however, the sheep’s grazing passed without incident.
Later on, the group that went to Khirbet Safa met up with us and we all went to see if there had been any additional building on Hill 26. Upon arrival, we could see that the whole area was a mess. Building materials and garbage were strewn around, and there was a spot with used toilet paper.
There had been some small changes made, but no new structures had been built. There were a few teenage boys from Kiryat Arba hanging out in their ‘hut’, and upon our arrival one of them pulled out a video camera to record us. Minutes later, a group of soldiers arrived. They did not speak to us, but rather with the teenage settlers.
We waited for the arrival of an order for a Closed Military Zone, which would compel us to leave the area or face arrest. In the end, 7 cars from the army, border police, and police arrived. There were more police and soldiers than Taayush members and settlers combined.
A Closed Miltary Zone was declared and we were told to leave. The police officers said that the settlers would also have to leave. They had said this on previous occasions and the settlers were permitted to remain. This time, however, the soldiers did actually make them leave.
To be sure, while we were made to leave by threat of force and arrest, the settlers left through urging and polite escort. Also, it seemed likely the settlers would return after an hour or so. Nevertheless, they did actually have to leave their illegal structure for the first time. Hopefully this has helped to establish a precedent, so in the future whenever we have to leave, they will as well.
For an account of Taayush activities yesterday in Khirbet Safa, check out IbnEzra’s blog