31.08.2007, Sarra – Nablus Region
On Friday, 31.08.2007, International and Israeli Human Rights Activists joined the people of Sarra village in another demonstration against a roadblock that for years has obstructed direct access into Nablus city.
For the last five years the people of Sarra have had a trip of five minutes from their town to Nablus turn into circuitous journey taking nearly an hour. The Israeli Occupation Forces have closed their road with the help of one meter squared cement blocks. There have been repeated attempts by the town to get this roadblock removed, as it needlessly damages the lives of the people inside, when they need to go to work, or to school, or to visit family. Though they have tried to work through government channels, speaking to the DCO and lawyers, it has come to no avail. Last week they were told that the army would open the roadblock, what the army did was invade and shoot up their village. Members of the village have become frustrated and impatient waiting for the government to act. Nothing has been done to help their situation and they have been lied to or ignored when they voice their complaint. In the end it has come to this; the people have taken their situation into their own hands, they are waiting for no one. They gathered on friday to demonstrate non-violently against the continued presence of a cage around their town, part of the cage around Nablus.
Around 300 people came together at the village mosque after friday prayer and made their way down the road towards the road closure. People’s spirits were high while marching down, waving Palestinian flags, chanting, cheering each other on. When they arrived, several soldiers could be seen with sniper rifles hiding behind trees on the hill right behind the roadblock. People were standing around the stone blocks, chanting slogans for some time. As the sprit of the people increased they began to drag barbwire, left on the side of the road by soldiers, across the road which leads to an army watchtower. People found old tires on the side of the road also, dragging them into the middle of the road and setting fire to them. Soon after a couple of army and police vehicles approached. Part of the group then walked towards the jeeps on the military road, attempting to prevent them from reaching the roadblock. They sat down in a row right in front of the vehicles and managed to stop them where they had parked. Some people from the group went to try and talk to the soldiers, negotiating about the presence of the roadblock. Several times the army drove closer towards the people blocking them in and attempting to threaten them. The Israeli military managed to capture and detain two of the Israeli activists, for being in a closed military zone, taking them away in a jeep.
The people who had stayed around the roadblock then started to move the stones off the road with the help of ropes. Soldiers increased their harrassment of the village, throwing several sound bombs and tear gas canisters into the crowd. Nonetheless, after dispersing for a moment, the people regathered, and continued to move all of the concrete road blocks out of the way.
People were cheering and continued chanting slogans, no more violence was at this point used by the army. The activists who had blocked the army vehicles then started retreating towards the other group around the roadblock. Some more discussions between the villagers and the DCO followed, another promise to look into the matter of the roadblock followed, which proved to be an empty promise once again.
The villagers and activists retreated back into the village, the internationals gathered in a house right next to where the roadblock was placed. All the people seemed to be very satisfied about the course of action that day.
Approximately two hours later however, the Israeli army came back with a bulldozer to re-close the just opened road. As the internationals saw them arriving, they rushed to the place and sat down on the cement blocks on the side of the road to prevent the army from moving it back in place. They were able to stop them for some time, and soldiers approached them and tried to make them leave the area. The internationals however refused, insisting on defending their just accomplished success. Unfortunately they were only five, as Palestinian and Israeli activists had already left the area. Like this they could not resist being taken away and arrested by the soldiers.
The army with its bulldozer closed the road again, putting the stones in place and after tore up the village’s land nearby, covering the cement blocks with a mound of dirt. The street is closed once again, but the people of Sarra don’t talk of giving up.
The two Israeli activists captured by the Israeli army were held until 10 pm, until they signed conditions stating they would not enter Sumeria for 15 days.
The international human rights workers arrested that day stayed in jail two more days. The men were given dingy cells and denied food beyond a few pieces of fruit the first night, the women were chained to a bench in a room with a television blaring all night. The women were not given blankets, and were ignored or mocked by the policemen on duty. They were forced to use the toilet chained to each other, and watch movies which bordered on pornography, while the policemen laughed at them. One was released the next day after nearly 24 hours in detention, the further three were dragged into court to be charged. The first activist released was made to sign a condition forbidding her from entering Sumeria for 15 days. The police wanted to ban the others from the West Bank for 30 days. The judge however simply asked them where they had friends in the West Bank; they replied Bethlehem, Ramallah, and Nablus. The judge then banned them from entering those cities for 30 days, fining them a total of 7,500 NIS each if they break their conditions. The other three activists could not readily find identification and so were thrown back in jail another night. The next day they returned to court, at which point their passports arrived in Tel Aviv and conditions of their release were confirmed.
All activists detained that day have all now been released, they would like to say a big thank you to everyone that supported them during their ordeal and assisted in obtaning their release.
For additional information relating to Sarra including video footage of the documented events please click onto Nablus Region Reports for a full outline of history and footage.