After last week’s violence in Safa, it seems that the IDF has come to an agreement with the residents and will permit the farmers of the town to work, but no one else will be allowed in the agricultural area. Therefore, Ta’ayush agreed to not go to Safa, hoping that the farming would resume without problems and that our activities there had indeed been successful.
Instead we went to accompany Palestinian shepherds from the small village of Tu’ba who wanted to graze their goats near the chicken houses of the settlement Ma’on. There was little vegetation to graze in the area, and even less in places further from the settlement. Our group was a few hundred meters from the settlement itself, and the chicken houses were only inhabited by chickens, so we were not very close to any settlers. Nonetheless, settlement security came to the area and called in the IDF, Border Police and civilian Police. They declared the area a Closed Military Zone and said we had to leave in 5 minutes. No explanation was given even though we repeatedly asked for one. Luckily, by that time the goats had nearly finished their grazing so we were not upset about leaving.
We received a phone call that some Palestinians in the village of Sha’ab al-Buttun had been attacked by settlers from Mitzpe Ya’ir, so we gathered in our cars and went there. By the time we arrived the settlers had already left, but the Palestinians showed us some video they had taken on a phone. Apparently, 3 settlers entered the village and went inside the homes of a few residents. They also hit some of the Palestinians, one of whom showed us the welts on his arms. Perhaps most disturbingly, the settlers also broke the legs of 3 of the Palestinian’s sheep. We will try to file a complaint and hopefully be able to press charges against the settlers. There is a chance of some success because their faces are on video.
Finally we went to visit the small Palestinian village of Susya, where the Border Police and IDF had followed us. After drinking tea and some discussion, it was decided to go up to Givat HaDegel, the illegal outpost built by settlers from the settlement of Susya on private Palestinian land. The soldiers and Border Police were already at the outpost when we arrived, ready with an order for a Closed Military Zone. At least 15 soldiers and Border Police prepared to eject our group of 15 from the area. After a brief argument, we went back to the village of Palestinian Susya and said our goodbyes
Most of the group continued back to Jerusalem after this, but I went to Beit Ummar with two others from Ta’ayush to say hello to Issa (a Palestinian Ta’ayush activist) and to see if the Palestinians in Safa were able to do their work. We found that the farmers were able to work today without any problems, which was very positive news. However, we also heard that the IDF had destroyed part of the walls on either side of a path leading to the farm area and also destroyed a few fruit trees.
Apparently, an army vehicle became stuck in a ditch in the farmland area. To get it out, the soldiers decided to bring a bulldozer, which then destroyed part of the walls on either side of the path, leaving rocks and rubble in the road. Another vehicle had driven in between the fruit trees, at least one of which was totally destroyed, and two or three others were seriously damaged and did not look to me that they would survive. I don’t think the soldiers intentionally did this damage, but the way they did it indicates that it does not matter to them. They did not make efforts not to damage property, and there was no discussion with any of the Palestinians about it. This destruction didn’t take place during a military operation or any kind of emergency, it just was easier for the soldiers to do their work this way.
(Photo by Mairav Zonszein)