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Iftar Curfew in Deir Istiya follows previous house occupations

October 7th, 2007

The residents of Deir Istiya, population 4,000, were sentenced to confinement in their homes shortly before breaking fast for the day. At around 5:10 pm, a convoy of between 10 to 12 military jeeps, manned with border police, entered the northern West Bank village near the city of Nablus announcing over megaphones: “everyone must go home. Deir Istiya is under curfew and you will endanger yourselves if you break curfew,” according to village resident Dr. F.

House Arrest

Curfew, although a seemingly innocuous term, dictates that civilians must stay locked inside their homes, often for days at a time, if not longer. The rules of curfew are fairly stringent: windows should be blacked out, and those seen loitering near windows (looking out to see what is happening) are liable to be shot. Work, school, and medical emergencies must be forsaken during curfew, as must trips to the supermarket or bakers to buy needed food supplies.

Although caged in their homes, residents took the initiative to update themselves on one anothers’ condition: shortly before Iftar began (at sunset), the invading Israeli forces kidnapped 3 young brothers, ages 10, 15, and 17, taking them and holding them for 1.5 hours while interrogating them, accusing them of knowing someone who engaged in resistance activities. While the youths were brought back to their home after interrogation, the soldiers also proceeded to search the house.

As of 9:30 pm, the residents of Deir Istiya remained forcedly locked in their homes, everyone afraid to venture outside for fear of being shot and killed.

Prior Punishment

Although this may be the first time in a more than a year that Deir Istiya residents have been put under house curfew, they have nonetheless recently suffered other IOF invasions. In September, while the IOF invaded Nablus’ al Ayn refugee camp, it simultaneously invaded Deir Istiya, occupying at least one home for one week and forcibly entering numerous homes in the village.

Upon arriving, the IOF told the family they would just stay 10 minutes, then shortly after obtaining the keys to the second floor of the home, revised their declaration to stay for 1 week, giving no explanation as to why they had invaded the village and taken over the home. The entrance to the second floor of the village home is separate, thus the army was able to come and go without directly passing through the family’s home.

The soldiers would come to the home in the evening, arriving anywhere from 6 pm to 2 am, stay overnight, and leave at some point during the day. The family never knew when to expect the soldiers, nor could the family enter their second story at any time. One of the six inhabitants of the house, a high school student, was unable to access her books which were in a room on the second floor. This came at an important time for high school students, when they are busy studying for their final exam, one whose results are critical in determining whether and where they go on to university. Yet the family was terrified to try to enter the second story, frightened of the repercussions of the soldiers.

During the day, the soldiers were also seen around the village, throwing tear gas and sound bombs in busy civilian areas, including into the town Mosque where Muslims were at evening prayers. The IOF also broke down doors of other homes in the area. Some families had vacated their homes temporarily, and others have homes in Nablus and Ramallah where they work, so when the IOF found no reply they broke down the door and, in numerous instances, searched the houses, breaking belongings at random will.

ISM human rights workers stayed with the family one night, after being called to the village 4 days into the occupation of the house. During that night, the IOF soldiers did not return to the home—this coincided with heightened IOF presence at Ayn refugee camp, where the army waged an invasion of destruction on the densely packed refugee population [http://www.palsolidarity.org/main/2007/09/21/army-incursion-in-al-ayn-refugee-camp-nablus/]. HRWs were able, however, in the soldiers’ absence to climb up a ladder into a second story window and obtain the textbooks the high school student needed.

The family of six –a grandfather and grandmother, three university students and one high school student –were visited later by EAPPI workers.