Home / “No-one is safe” – a doctor’s testimony from Gaza

“No-one is safe” – a doctor’s testimony from Gaza

1. “No-one is safe” – a doctor’s testimony from Gaza
2. Israeli military kills non-violent demonstrators in Gaza
3. Tales of the prophets: harvesting in the shadow of the settlements
4. More Settler Intimidation in Nablus Olive Harvest
5. Olive Harvest in Tel Rumeida Interrupted by Occupation Authorities
6. Two Hour Delay for Teachers at Tel Rumeida Checkpoint
7. International Accompaniment Makes a Difference in Zawarta
8. Israeli Army Allows Settlers to Steal Palestinian Olives in Hebron
9. Frenchman shot by Israeli forces in Bil’in
10. Israeli settlers chase families off their Nablus land while soldiers stand by
11. Checkpoint closed for eight hours after IOF soldier shoots Palestinian

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1. “No-one is safe” – a doctor’s testimony from Gaza

November 6th, Dr. Mona Elfaraa from Al Awda hospital, Jabalya, Gaza:

“No-one is safe. This morning little five and six-year old children, wounded in a missile attack, were brought to our hospital. They were shaking and crying with fear. Their teacher Najwa Kholeef had been wounded in the head. A sixteen-year old boy and twenty-year old man had been killed.

I have seen some of the shrapnel that was recovered from the previous day’s injuries , marked clearly with USA, the shrapnel and the kinds of wounds are unusual , surgeons have not come across them before , some of the bodies with totally burnt, limbs are missing and one of the bodies was covered with hundreds of pieces of small shrapnel. We do not have the time and facilities to investigate the causes.

Tanks and armored vehicles have been surrounding the Beit Hanoun hospital for the last six days and preventing medical volunteers and victims of violence from reaching it.

On Sunday our colleagues, 21 year old ambulance driver Ahmad Madhun and medical volunteer Mustafa Habib were murdered and Dannielle Abu Samra was wounded while trying to tend to the wounded. ”

English-speaking media contacts in Gaza :

Dr Mona Elfaraa, Doctor at Al Awda Hospital in Beit Hanoun.
Tel: +972 599 410 741 and +970 82846602
fromgaza.blogspot.com/
Dr Abu Ala’a, Professor at Gaza University.
Tel: + 972 599441766
Dr Asad A. Shark, Gaza Strip, + 972 599 322636
Dr Ayoub Othman, + 972 599 412 826
Yousef Alhelou, Journalist based in Beit Hanoun.
Tel: + 972599697254. Email:
[email protected]

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2. Israeli military kills non-violent demonstrators in Gaza

November 3rd,
Israeli attacks on Gaza continue Friday with the murder of two unarmed female non-violent demonstrators in the town of Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip.

As one woman participating in the demonstration stated “We risked our lives to free our sons.” (source: BBC article, see below)

The BBC has published video of the non-violent demonstration at which the two women were killed. It can be seen by clicking the ‘watch’ link at the top right-hand side of the page on the BBC News site: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6112386.stm

More video can be downloaded here: http://mediaserver.kataweb.it/tgrep/reuters/gazasparisudonne.wmv

It is a contravention of the Fourth Geneva convention for armies to fail to make a distinction between unarmed civilians and armed combatants. Israel is continually violating its obligations under the convention, to which it is a signatory.

Blogger, doctor and citizen-journalist Mona Elfarra has been covering the attacks from inside Beit Hanoun. See below for some of her recent reports.

Gaza: While the world is silent

by Mona Elfarra

This is happening in the north of the Gaza Strip while the world is silent. Break the silence and speak for the speechless.

Gaza, 5pm, Thursday, 2 November 2006

During its large scale military operation against Gaza, the Israeli occupying army today continued its attack on the village of Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza strip. Twelve people were killed and at least 75 injured, many seriously. All casualities received at Al Awda hospital emergency room were seriously injured, with gunshot wounds to chests, abdomens and heads.

Movement of ambulances in and outside of the village is greatly restricted. Many different types of patients are confined to their homes, including patients whose life depends on renal dialysis. The only hospital inside Beit Hanoun is surrounded by dozens of army tanks and military vehicles. With continuous shelling and shooting, any moving body would be shot at once.

All men over 16 were asked to gather inside one of the village schools. As I write, the local radio station has just announced the death of one of the women trying to stop the army actions against her family.

As medical teams we are working under great pressure. The situation has been very bad and is deteriorating daily, with sanctions against the Palestinian Authority, long periods of border closure, military assualts and so on.

We were hoping that negotiations for the release of the captured Israeli soldier would bring some hope for improvement of our situation, but it seems that Israel is pressing ahead with its preplanned agenda against Gaza and the Palestinian people.

I call upon you to spread the word and to try to shake the silent world.

End the Assault Against the North of Gaza

Press Release: 2 November 2006

Yesterday the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) began their grotesquely named “Operation Autumn of Fury” in the Gaza Strip. Beit Hanoun, scene of repeated massacres by Israeli forces since June 25th, was re-occupied by Israeli tanks. Since yesterday 12 civilians have been shot dead and more than 65 women and children have been injured. On the first day of Eid El Fiter last week, 7 residents of the town were killed by the IOF.

The town of Beit Hanoun was bombed by Apache helicopters and F16 and V58 fighter planes. Beit Hanoun’s residents have no water or electricity today. These air-strikes which damage essential infrastructure and terrify the civilian population are a form of collective punishment against the Palestinian people and are war crimes which are forbidden under international humanitarian law. The Fourth Geneva Convention calls for any military to do its utmost to distinguish between civilians and combatants and forbids attacks on civilans or civilian infrastructure. Israel is a signatory of this convention.

We therefore call on the international community to exert pressure on the Israeli Occupation Forces to conduct themselves within the boundaries of international humanitarian law and ensure the protection of all Palestinian civilians.

We also demand the immediate halt of the Israeli Occupation Forces’ attacks on the Gaza Strip and an end to the closure and isolation of the Strip, both of which are exacerbating an already desperate humanitarian situation.

For comments contact:
Dr. Mona Al Farra +970 82 846 602 or +972 599 410 741.
Dr Abu Ala’a, Gaza Strip, + 972 599 441766
Dr Asaad Abu Sharkh, Gaza Strip, + 972 599 322636
Dr Ayyoub Othman, + 972 599 412 826

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3. Tales of the prophets: harvesting in the shadow of the settlements

by ISM Nablus, Monday 30th October
“He turned his walking-stick into a giant snake that swallowed up all the others’ tiny snakes. And so the Pharoah knew that Moses was a prophet and not just a simple magician.” Rada, 29 years old, is telling us stories while we kneel along the edges of the tarpaulins picking up stray olives from the ground. Her voice is soft and soothing, almost like song, even though her English is taken directly from North American sit-coms. She especially likes Seinfeld and Friends.

Rada’s family are spread out along a mountain ridge some 300 metres from the Israeli settlement of Itamar, just west of Rujeeb village outside of Nablus city. The village is effectively an expansion of Balata refugee camp, built by families wishing to escape the insecurity and cramped environment of their former home. Perched on branches and standing on the ground pulling the olives off of the boughs with nimble fingers, we are cheerful but guarded. Despite the pretty surroundings and the spring-like weather, it is difficult to forget that the settlement houses and the perimeter fence with its alarmed gate loom menacingly behind our backs.

A settler militia van comes driving along the road and an armed settler steps out, opens the gate and looks around. A military jeep hurries behind it, screeches to a halt and soldiers step out to converse with the, seemingly self-appointed, settler deputy. After five minutes, both vehicles drive off and we discover that we have been holding our breaths all the while.

The day proceeds quietly. We finish picking the trees closest to the settlement and move on to a second plot of land adjacent to the settler by-pass road. In the morning, soldiers tell the international pickers present to get out of the area as it is a so-called “red zone”, implying that only people officially residing in Rujeeb may be there. Their will to enforce this rule, however, seems halfhearted and we are not interrupted again.

As we walk back toward the village, with Rada singing a Sami Yusuf tune written in ode to his mother, we pass through a valley framed by the main settlements and outposts of Elon Moreh and Itamar. Rada’s husband tells us about how settlers planted a bomb under the car of the mayor of a nearby village, crippling him for life, after he had brought the settlement’s claims of land ownership to the Israeli Supreme Court and won.

We decide to meet tomorrow at the same time and wave goodbye to the children, wishing them a goodnight in the village accent that they have tried to teach us all day. It has been a good day, promising plenty of good days to come. Welcome to the olive harvest in Nablus, where harvesting is resisting.

For photos visit: http://www.palsolidarity.org/main/2006/10/31/prophets-story/

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4. More Settler Intimidation in Nablus Olive Harvest

by ISM Nablus, 30th October
At 8am this morning two international Human Rights Workers (HRWs) accompanied a Palestinian family from the village of Azmut, just east of Nablus, to their olive groves. This land has found itself within close proximity to the illegal Israeli settlement of Elon Moreh, meaning that the family has been unable to harvest or cultivate this land for the past 8 years. Just 5 minutes after starting to harvest, a settler-operated “security” jeep pulled up a short distance further up the hill, and started screaming over a loudspeaker at the Palestinians, mainly in Hebrew with a little Arabic. One of the family told us he he had demanded that they “go back go back to [their] houses”. The villagers were visibly distressed, the village having long been subject to violence and intimidation from the settlers. With the settler in the jeep continuing to threaten us over the loudspeaker, the villagers left immediately. The two HRWs called the DCO (District Co-ordination Office, the civilian administration wing of the Israeli military in the West Bank) and asked for the Israeli police to intervene. Around 15 minutes later a border police jeep arrived and stopped next to the settler vehicle. However by this stage the villagers, accompanied by the 2 internationals, had retreated to a safe distance, and so it was not clear what the border police were going to do about the situation.

After the border police arrived the settler jeep remained where it was for about 10 minutes. There didnt seem to be much interaction between the police vehicle and the settler jeep; a police man appeared to say a few words to the settler(s) when they first arrived, but both vehicles remained next to each other on the top of the hill. The army certainly didn’t come to protect the villagers.

The villagers were unwilling to return without explicit assurances from the DCO that their protection from the Israeli settlers could be ensured.

The Palestinian family decided instead to harvest some olives out of sight of the settlement, and the rest of the day’s harvest went ahead without incident. This one family alone has 90 dunums of land which they are unable to cultivate due to the proximity of this notorious Israeli settlement, leaving them with just 60 dunums.

The settlement’s colonist residents have been known to shoot at Palestinians attempting to pick their olives, and the army is complicit in this intimidation, the family told us. They regularly refuse to allow Palestinians access to their land, in contravention to Israeli High Court rulings. We were also told of several previous incidents of the army entering the village and assaulting its residents.

The HRW’s were also shown a stream running into the village. Although it previously provided the village with much needed water, it is now heavily polluted by a factory in the Elon Moreh settlement, and its chemical stench spreads over a considerable area. Despite all the setbacks and intimidation, the villagers of Azmut refuse to leave, and will continue this year’s olive harvest as they have done for many generations.

Clarified and expanded: 6 November.

For photos see: http://www.palsolidarity.org/main/2006/11/01/azmut-harvest/

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5. Olive Harvest in Tel Rumeida Interrupted by Occupation Authorities

by ISM Hebron, October 31st
At 8:00 a.m. six internationals gathered at the home of the Palestinian family that lives directly across the street from the Tel Rumeida settlement to help the family pick its olives. Settlers had stolen olives from a family tree the night before so it was imperative to harvest the olives before the settlers could make away with the remaining olives.

The internationals were joined by three members of CPT and by three observers from the EAPPI and everyone went to a parcel of family land that is adjacent to a military outpost and is in a closed military zone.

The group picked from 9 to 11 am, then the two internationals and several family members left for a meeting. Picking continued until 12:05 when four border police invaded a house near the olive grove where another family member resides. Two CPT people followed them into the house to record what was happening. The police told the CPTers to leave but CPT refused.

Then a small group of visitors on their way to the Sabeel conference was brought to the house by a CPT member in order to observe the olive picking. The army tried to prevent them visiting the house as the road leading to it has been closed by the Israeli military.

At this point, the police, who had come to the house for a purpose we don’t know, noticed the group picking olives right next to the military outpost. They challenged the olive pickers and most exited the field to enter into discussion with the police or watch what was going on. CPT gave the high court order to the police but this did not appear to affect their objections to the olive picking. Then the internationals and family members at the community meeting were called and returned. They began filming and discussing. Phone calls were made to the DCO and the captain. At 12:20 the police officer in charge said that the army captain would come and talk to the whole group but he never came. Then at 12:40 the police officer in charge left and four border police remained including two who spoke Arabic. They said they were there to protect us but in fact they were there to prevent anyone from picking the olives.

At 1 pm, a representative from B’Tselem came and he phoned the DCO. At this point two representatives of the High Commission of the Red Cross emerged into the yard through the grape vines. They were on a regular inspection patrol and heard the commotion. After them came a representative from ACRI (Association for Civil Rights in Israel). Finally a decision was conveyed to the police that only Palestinians could pick the olives. None of the internationals could work in the olive grove.

We then all went to the home of the Palestinian family whose olives were being picked as they had prepared lunch for us.

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6. Two Hour Delay for Teachers at Tel Rumeida Checkpoint

by ISM Hebron, November 1st
8:15 a.m., a human rights worker who happened to be walking through the Tel Rumeida checkpoint, discovered that 12 teachers and the headmistress from Qurtuba School were being refused entry at the checkpoint. At this time there were two observers from EAPPI present.

At 8:25, after a lot of argument, the soldiers at the checkpoint allowed the headmistress to go through in order to phone the DCO from the school. When the headmistress, Reem Sharif, returned she said that in September the teachers had also been held up every day for two hours so that the school session was almost over by the time they were allowed to pass the checkpoint. (Over the last year or so, there have been many incidents of soldiers arbitrarily preventing the teachers from reaching the school.)

Since then the teachers have been on strike. They had decided to return without salaries and were allowed through the checkpoint on Tuesday, October 31.

On the Tuesday, a settler came and spoke to the headmistress expressing anger that the school was open again. The settler asked whether the school would be open the following day and was told that it would be.

The headmistress suspects that the settler made a complaint and that is why the teachers were not allowed to pass the checkpoint.

Contacts made by the HRW:
8:45 Machsom Watch and the DCO. The DCO said he would take care of the problem. At 9:00 a.m. the police arrived and after a lot of discussion they didn’t handle the problem and drove away. AT 9:30 the DCO said the problem would be solved within a few minutes. At 9:50, Amir, an officer from the DCO, said that three of the teachers were not on the list of the teachers eligible to be allowed through. The teachers said, that no one had asked for their I.D. So then Amir and Headmistress Sharif worked on checking and amending the list.

At 10:05, the teachers had their I.Ds checked and were allowed through the checkpoint.

The original HRW program for the morning had been to meet at 9:00 a.m. at the home of a Palestinian family living near the Tel Rumeida settlement but the incident with the teacher pushed the time of meeting back to 10:15. The family members said they were ok with this. So, at 10:15 three HRWs met at the family home and spent the morning and part of the afternoon picking olives close to the military watchtower. Then they had lunch and an extended visit with the family. Two TIPH teams visited the olive picking site during the morning to make sure there was no trouble.

For photos see: http://www.palsolidarity.org/main/2006/11/02/teachers-01-11/

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7. International Accompaniment Makes a Difference in Zawarta

by ISM Nablus, Wednesday 1st November

“What do you think of this place? Isn’t is beautiful?” The woman asking the question, a mother of four polished and polite children, looks at us expectantly. What can we say? Wadi Al-Khrazey on the outskirts of the 2,000 person village of Zawata, west of Nablus city, is not an immediately attractive place. The olive groves, made up of two long rows of trees rooted in red sand, are crammed in between a military road and a slope leading up to the notoriously violent Sabatash checkpoint (named after the Palestinian security force that used to man it) with its watchtower looming ominously on the highest hilltop.

Yet by the time the blue sky has been replaced by dark clouds weighted down by rain, and the donkey has tottered up and down the hillside on his spindly legs for the fourth time, the place seemed to transform. We can see gophers scurrying among the rocks, paths carefully trampled over by two hundred years worth of hooves and sandaled feet, and gnarled trunks of trees spiraling into branches lovingly trimmed to perfection. We know now that the military street used to be a railway track planned by the British colonial administration, and that it led from cities as exotic as Damascus and Baghdad to the ports of Haifa and Jaffa. We sit on the uppermost chair-like branches sprinkling olives on the people below while three young girls squeeze into a wheelbarrow singing the latest Arabic pop hits. This is truly a beautiful place that before long has a whole history of joys and sorrows ringing in our ears.

Last Wednesday, a few families tried to start picking olives from their trees along side the military road, with jeeps and hummers speeding past every 10 minutes. After only a couple of hours, the harvesters were chased off their land. Soldiers stepped out of their hummer, screamed at the people through megaphones to leave the area and fired several rounds into the air. Frightened for their own and their children’s lives, everyone left. Since then, people have been reluctant to return to their land without international accompaniment.

Today, three families and a group of internationals harvested every last olive from the area. It would, however, be wrong to say that the work proceeded without interruption. Every time a hummer passed by, one of the younger children’s knees would involuntarily buckle. As he ducked behind a bush, his father Maher Saleh smiled at us sadly. A father’s powers of consolation scorned. And again, we did not know what to say. Only last night, Israeli forces entered the village under the protection of darkness and abducted two young men from their homes. This is a regular occurrence that, apart from being horrific in itself, completely undermines parental authority and children’s general sense of security.

Come to Palestine! There is a great need for international accompaniment during the olive harvest – supporting the sense of civil resistance that has people out in their fields every single day reclaiming their rights to their land. Together, we can try to make sure that every last olive is picked and that the children are allowed to play among the olive trees in peace, if only for a day.

For photos visit: http://www.palsolidarity.org/main/2006/11/02/zawata-diff/

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8. Israeli Army Allows Settlers to Steal Palestinian Olives in Hebron

by Mary, October 30th 2006

At 4.20pm, international Human Rights Workers (HRWs) at the Tel Rumeida crossing noticed that Israeli settlers from the Tel Rumeida settlement were picking olives by the Israeli army post nearby the settlement. These olive trees belong to the Abu Hekel family, who are due to start picking tomorrow. There has been an Israeli court order that Palestinians are to be provided with protection for their property by the Israeli army or police and allowed to pick their olives in safety.

A HRW approached the soldiers at the crossing and drew attention to the Israeli boys in an olive tree and women on the ground. The boys had a long stick and were beating the branches of the tree and the women and others were picking up the olives from the ground. A soldier, who spoke little English and no Arabic, seemed to understand the situation. He contacted the soldier, who was near the settlers. This soldier spoke to the settlers, who took no notice and continued stealing olives. After pressure from the HRWs, the soldier at the crossing continued telephoning. After about 15 minutes, more soldiers arrived. These were followed by an Israeli police jeep. The settler boys came out of the tree and a settler woman walked across the street to the settlement and brought back more women and children to the olive grove. Despite the presence of a soldier, the picking continued and at least one woman managed to take away some olives. Then an Israeli army officer and soldier arrived. These were followed by an Israeli police jeep, an army vehicle and a third police jeep. At least three cars driven by Jewish men came up the hill and parked. Eight orthodox Jewish men walked out of the settlement and down towards Beit Hadasa settlement. It was not clear if they had been involved in the theft of olives or not. In the end there were eight Israeli police, border police and soldiers. They were gradually able to get the Israeli settlers to return to the settlement. The settlers took the olives they collected with them. A clear case of theft.

Israeli settlers were chanting outside the settlement for about ten minutes. Then a number of settler children were driven away. Apparently they had been brought to Tel Rumeida settlement to take part in this illegal action. Israeli children under the age of twelve cannot be arrested here, no matter what they do. Their parents and adults who supervise them in such actions are not held responsible.

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9. Frenchman shot by Israeli forces in Bil’in

by ISM media team, November 3rd

For the second week in a row the Israeli military have shot a demonstrator with live ammunition at the Palestinian village of Bil’in. This week was the turn of 69-year old Frenchman José Jeandrot, a volunteer in the olive harvest as part of a delegation from a French solidarity group. He was shot in the wrist and received treatment in Sheikh Zaid hospital in Ramallah. José was shot by Israeli forces that were still in the village after the demonstration ended.

On their way back to the village the demonstrators encountered soldiers facing resistance from the village youth who threw stones at the invaders. As the soldiers were withdrawing they started firing rubber bullets and live ammunition at the youth. In addition to José’s injury, 8 other people were shot with rubber bullets and one woman broke her leg while running away from the soldiers.

As the village youth were trying to repel a military jeep that invaded the village with stones, Israeli soldiers fired live ammunition at them and drove up a driveway where onlookers were gathered. The soldiers then got out of their jeep and fired at the youth. The onlookers were standing around a corner and José, who was filming the incursion, was standing at least 50m from the village youth when he was hit in the wrist.

Earlier on Bil’in villagers had been joined by international and Israeli supporters as they marched to the Israeli annexation barrier, which has ceased over 50% of the village land. The marchers managed to cross one of the fences and marched to the gate where they demanded to be let through to reach the olive groves. Many of the internationals present, including José, are accompanying farmers to their olive groves in areas where they face violence and intimidation from Israeli settlers and soldiers. The protest passed off peacefully despite the military’s use of tear gas and sound bombs against the protesters. When this violence failed to intimidate the marchers the soldiers started violently pushing and shoving them. Towards the end of the demonstration some border policemen violently pushed protesters returning to the village.

Injuries

Amjad Abu Rahme, 11 – shot with a rubber bullet in the shoulder
Amer Nasser, 22 – shot with a rubber bullet in the shoulder
Ibrahim Burnat, 25 – shot with a rubber bullet in the hand
Ashraf Khatib, 24 – shot with a rubber bullet in the leg
Bader Khatib, 35 – shot with a rubber bullet in the leg
Sharar Mansour, 22 – shot with a rubber bullet in the leg
Wael Nasser, 31 – shot with a rubber bullet in the neck
Leila Zoada, 32 – leg broken while running away from soldiers

For more information contact:
Abdullah Abu Rahme: 0547258210
ISM media office: 02 2971824, 0599943157
José – 0525169105

For photos visit: http://www.palsolidarity.org/main/2006/11/03/bilin-03-11-06/

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10. Israeli settlers chase families off their Nablus land while soldiers stand by

by ISM Nablus, 4th of November 2006

Today, Palestinian farmers from Azmut village north of Nablus city were attacked on their land by a gang of Israeli settlers, who were accompanied by two soldiers. The settlers ran after the families, shouted and threw stones at them. At one point they kicked and hit international volunteers, who had come to help the farmers pick olives. The group of settlers, aged from around eight to twenty, came from the settlement of Elon Moreh two kilometres away from the village.

This year’s olive harvest has been difficult for the people of Azmut. This is the third time this week that farmers from the village were forced off their land. Five days ago an armed settler stopped nearby and used a megaphone to threaten families picking olives, intimidating them into leaving. Yesterday, a group of settlers chased the farmers off their land. The farmers, knowing the violence that has come from these settlers in the past and the extreme views of those in the Elon Moreh settlement, didn’t want to risk any injuries and subsequently left.

This morning the farmers had to begin their work by picking up all the olives that settlers had thrown across the ground the previous night. They had only harvested for about forty minutes, when two soldiers approached and told them that “there is no coordination today, come back tomorrow”.

The international volunteers attempted to negotiate with the soldiers about the families’ legal right to access their land at any time, but after a couple of minutes a gang of around 25 settler children and young people suddenly descended down the hill towards the groves. The families had no time to collect their tools and olive sacks as they were forced to flee.

As the settlers approached the families and international volunteers, they stopped by the soldiers to pick up and throw stones. As they got closer one volunteer was kicked by a settler. Other volunteers were hit with rocks and one volunteer was attacked because he was recorded the attack with a video camera. All of this happened with soldiers standing by and making no attempt to stop the settlers or to protect the families and the international volunteers, in spite of their legal obligations under Israeli law to stop settler attacks.

Elon Moreh is one of the oldest settlements in the northern West Bank and has explicitly expressed their purpose: to block the creation of a Palestinian state. The 1200 or so inhabitants are infamous for their religious and violent extremism. They have been involved in a number of serious attacks on Palestinian villages, where they have burnt down trees, attacked Palestinians and in some cases killed them.

This settler attack is just another example of the harassment that Palestinians face. Check points, settler only roads and military harassment all serve to keep them away from their land and lively hoods. The villagers of Azmut are afraid, but are determined to go back to go back to their land, even in the face of such violence, to continue their harvest and to keep their land.

For more information on Elon Moreh, see this entry on the Peace Now website:
http://www.peacenow.org.il/site/en/peace.asp?pi=62&docid=1503

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11. Checkpoint closed for eight hours after IOF soldier shoots Palestinian

by ISM Nablus, 5th November

Yesterday, the checkpoint known to Nablusians as “Sabatash” was closed to everyone trying to pass it in both directions. Located at a narrow bend in the road, flanked by a steep mountainous slope and a watchtower overlooking an olive grove valley running beside a military road, this checkpoint is notorious for its violent and trigger-happy soldiers. Every day, this checkpoint denies people living north of Nablus city their freedom of movement, as well as preventing the transport of such diverse but equally essential goods as sewage pipes and olive oil to the villages of Asira Ash-Shamalia, An-Naqura and Sebastiya.

By midday, the line of buses, trucks and private cars was already several hundred meters long. The Israeli soldiers at the checkpoint were forcing the young men to get out of their vehicles and lift up their shirts so as to prove that they were not wearing explosive belts around their waists. According to eyewitness reports, 24-year old Haythem Yaseen refused to submit to this humiliating procedure and began to argue with one of the soldiers. In front of the line of waiting students, farmers and workers, the soldier then shot Haythem in the leg with live ammunition as punishment.

“He is a beautiful, gentle man”, said one of Haythem’s fellow students, 22-year old Yusef Hashaka. “He was only standing up for himself and for us. And then they shot him.” Shortly after sustaining his injury, Haythem was abducted by Israeli forces and taken to an Israeli hospital for treatment.

At half past eight, the line of stationary vehicles had grown even longer and most of the male passengers were standing on the verge of the road smoking or jumping up and down in an attempt to keep warm. The soldiers at the checkpoint were saying that their only job was to make sure that the checkpoint would close at eight o’clock and that any people who were still waiting on the Nablus side would have to return to the city, despite the fact that the checkpoint had in practice been closed since two o’clock in the afternoon.

The people, furious at the situation and without money for taxis or anywhere to sleep over in the city, refused to move and stood behind the razor-wire rolled over both car lanes, waiting for a second decision. By this time, most of them had been waiting for over six hours in the cold and rain. After some negotiation on the part of international human rights workers, women, elderly men and children were allowed to pass.

By ten o’clock in the evening, there were about 150 young men left on the Nablus side of the checkpoint. The soldiers were unusually nervous and jumpy throughout the evening, pointing their guns at and scanning their strobe light across the crowd. After further negotiation, they finally agreed to let the young men through in two buses. As the men finally, after eight hours of delay, got into the buses and waved goodbye, Palestinian sources reported that there were large numbers of Israeli special forces and soldiers in the city which would have made it impossible for the men to return to Nablus.

Denied passage through the checkpoint to Asira Ash-Shamalia, the group of human rights workers took refuge on the porch of a nearby mosque until able to return to the city safely. Clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian resistance fighters took place throughout the Old City for several hours but no one was injured. Two Palestinian men were abducted and are currently being held in an unknown location.

For more information contact ISM Nablus: 059 907 6568

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