A “March of Return” to the Destroyed Villages of Latroun
by the ISM Media Crew
On Saturday, June 16, Palestinians from the destroyed villages of Latroun will once again return to their land. They will be joined by Israeli and International solidarity activists to commemorate the destruction of their homes and confiscation of their land 40 years ago by the Israeli government, and the murder of nearly 40 Palestinians by Israeli occupation forces.
Immediately after the breakout of the Arab-Israeli war of June 1967, and the by the Israeli army of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Sinai, and Golan Heights, the occupying Israeli soldiers forcible evacuated the villagers of these three villages to Ramallah city, forbidding them from returning home. Following the mass expulsion, Israeli forces commenced work on demolishing every house. Twenty Palestinians, too sick or old to evacuate were killed in this process. Days later, when Palestinians attempted to return to their villages, almost 20 more Palestinians were murdered.
“I was 6 years old when they came to destroy my village,” said Ishmael, a leader of the Yallo Committee. “My family and I slept under the trees in Beitunya. We didn’t have time to bring anything from our houses, not even shoes. We lost everything!”
Members of the Yallo Committee explained that over the ruins of the three destroyed villages of Latroun, Israel has established cow fields over Yallo, a Canada-sponsored park (Canada Park) over Immwas, and the Israeli settlement of Mevo Horon over Beit Nuba. Mevo Haron is now diverting all of the natural spring water to the illegal settlement. In addition, Road 1, connecting Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, cuts Immwas into two pieces.
Members of the Yallo Committee also explained that for there to be any political solution, the main demand of the Committee is to return to their villages. Ahmad, from the Committee, said,”I was 8 years old, fleeing with my father at 6 in the morning to Beitunya. When we returned to our homes in Beit Nuba, they were destroyed. So we had to return to Beitunya, where we are still waiting, suffering, until we can return home. International law says that we have a right to return.”
Ishmale agreed, saying, “The road to peace passes through our three villages!”
June 16th will mark the Committee’s 5th march to the destroyed villages of Latroun. On June 5, 1995, the Yallo Committee organized the “March of Return” in Beitunya. Their intention was to draw attention to the case of 10,000 villagers expelled from Immwas, Yallo and Beit Nuba. The march was halted by the Israeli army after the protesters had walked 200 metres.
The march is being organized with the Israeli group Zehorot who has joined the Yallo Committee in previous marches. The Committee has also invited Palestinian groups from Ramallah, al Bireh, Jerusalem, and other Israeli and International peace groups. Palestinians will be joined by solidarity activists at 1:30pm at the Beitunya Secondary Boy’s School. At 2:00pm, buses and cars will transport the demonstrators to Beit Liqya. At 3:00, the demonstration will make its way to the Wall, where Palestinians, accompanied by Israeli and International solidarity representatives, will make speeches about the 40th anniversary of their destroyed villages.
To reserve your space on the bus, please contact:
Yallo Committee, 02-290-2335
For more info, contact:
ISM Media Office, 0599-943-157, 0542-103-657
The Latroun Villages include those of Immwas, Yallo, and Beit Nuba.
The region is considered an important historical and administrative center throughout the course of history since the Roman, Byzantine, Rushed, Ommiad, Abbesite, Crusaders, Ayyoubi, Mamlouki, and Turkish periods. These villages acquired special significance during these ages and at the time of the Arab-Israeli conflict, for a variety of reasons, including:
* Its strategic position in the central parts of the country linking the coastal and mountainous regions with each other
* Constituting the first defense line against Jerusalem and thus considering these villages the gate of western Jerusalem
* Overlooking the coastal region while its hills form the beginning of Jerusalem’s mountainous slopes
* The abundance of springs and ground water resources in the region, having attracted all invaders to conquer the region
* All the occupying powers who have invaded Palestine during the course of history have left their imprints on these villages consequently effecting a religious, archaeological, and constructive pattern
The Latroun villages of Immwas, Yallo, and Beit Nuba are located some 28 kilometers south east of Jaffa City, about 25 km northwest of Jerusalem and 30 km south of Ramallah. They occupy an important strategic position overlooking the highways of Jerusalem, Jaffa, Ramallah, and Gaza.
In the wake of demolishing these villages by Israel after the June 1967 Arab-Israeli war, the Jewish state initiated the construction of a highway linking Jerusalem with Tel Aviv, and passing through the midst of Immwas Land.
The total area of the Latroun villages is estimated at over 50,000 dunums.
According to pre-1967 census, the population of the three villages at the time of their destruction combined at 10,000 persons. Nowadays, the last figures released exceeded 30,000 persons spread out over Jordan, Ramallah, Beitunya, and Jerusalem.
The Israeli occupation authority issued a military order (serial no. 97) on September 9, 1967, stating the Latroun villages were considered a “closed military zone.”
However, these villages were withing the conquered territories by Israel in the 1967 war and should therefore be covered by UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, calling upon Israel to withdraw from all Occupied Territories.