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Sarra Village under Siege

by IWPS, January 19th

Sarra village is a village under siege by the IOF (Israeli Occupation Forces). This village of about 3000 people suffers daily and nightly army incursions and harassment. The village is situated on the hills south west of Nablus. The main road to the village has been closed by the IOF for the past 5 years. A left turn from this road and Nablus is only a 2km ride away. The villagers are now forced to go through the village of Tel and use a road that is 15km away from Nablus. Abu Islam travels this road every day to the college he teaches in, in Nablus. What used to be a 10km ride to get to work, now takes 25km. That is an additional 30km travelling per day and means a much bigger expense for the taxi ride from home to work. In addition, a flying checkpoint is set up each day which delays the people of Sarra even further. The Occupation wastes so much of peoples’ time and adds a constant expense to their daily lives –making life difficult or practically impossible, and forcing people to leave. Almost every family in this village has a member living abroad.

Last year, with the help of the organisation B’Tselem, the village managed to get the main road opened for a period of 42 days. But the Army closed the road again at the beginning of the Olive Harvesting season on the September 1st 2006. The road separates the villagers from their land that lies to the west of the Nablus road. Villagers who have land on that side of the road are faced with problems from the Israeli army, as well as a group of violent, armed settlers, that stop them from getting to their land. The settlers, who come on horseback, carry guns and have been known to fire on the people of Sarra when they attempt to access their land.

The house at the now deserted main entrance suffered an entire year of the army occupying and using their first floor as a checkpoint to the entrance of the village. The family lived on the ground floor while the army used the first floor and roof. The eldest son of the family had to postpone his wedding because of this Occupation of his apartment. The first floor of the house had been built for him for when he got married. The soldiers stayed on the first floor and used a basket attached to a rope for people to hand their Ids over to them. Anyone entering or leaving the village had to put his or her ID into the basket, wait for it to be pulled up and then wait until the soldier decided to return the ID.

When I went to speak to the mayor and people of this village, three army jeeps had entered the village and were driving around, doing little but making their presence known. The day before I got there the army had entered the village at school dismissal time and fired teargas into the school grounds of the boys and girls schools. Army jeeps regularly enter the village when schools close for the day and the children are returning home. This is a deliberate provocation to the people of the village and the schoolchildren, who most certainly do not welcome this presence in their village. A lot of the young boys throw stones at the armoured vehicles that deliberately enter the village to provoke this kind of response.

The people of Sarra live under the constant stress of not knowing when the soldiers will wake them up at night on their nightly incursions into the village. The soldiers usually drive into the village after midnight, throw sound bombs and bang on the doors of different houses, demanding that the owners open them. Once opened the families (men, women, children and old people) are forced out into the cold while the soldiers go and rummage through the houses, always causing some damage or other. Soldiers have even been seen taking pictures inside the homes, of what exactly, the people do not know. As they leave the homes, the soldiers are always seen laughing and joking with each other.

One villager told the mayor that he has taken to wearing three sets of clothing when he goes to sleep, because on the two times his home was recently invaded, he and his family were forced to stand in the winter cold for more than two hours. The villagers never know when it will be their turn to be harassed when the army comes on its nightly incursions and this naturally results in high levels of stress and anxiety.

There are no people currently wanted for any resistance work from this village. Twenty six of their young people are already in prison, however, imprisoned for merely talking about what they would do against the Occupation, and one even for relating a dream he had about resisting the Occupation. All arrested are in their late teens and early twenties, and are currently serving sentences of between 12 and 18 years.

On the January 9th a 20 year old was arrested from Sarra village and taken to Huwarra prison. He has been arrested and imprisoned before. Since his previous imprisonment he has had numerous stomach ailments, for which doctors cannot find any explanation. Nobody in his family has been allowed to see him or speak to him. The family had to get a lawyer to call and find out where he was being held.

Two homes in this village have been demolished by the army. A collective punishment inflicted on the families whose sons had already been captured and imprisoned. These families have been prevented by the army to clear the demolished homes and have had to rebuild a home for themselves on the tiny land left on the side of the ruins of the demolished ones. One family I visited had a two-roomed house, with a kitchen for a family of six, where previously they had had a two-storey house.

On the night of the January 9th a young schoolboy (12-years old) was shot in the head by a rubber bullet as he was walking home at around 8pm. He was taken to the hospital in Nablus and is now back home. He is still suffering from dizzy spells and there is now a blot clot in his brain that cannot be removed.

The people of this village ask that the army stops harassing them and stop their daily incursions and that their main entrance be opened. And this is a lot to ask in the middle of an illegal Occupation.

Click here for a previous report from Sarra