The village of Sarra lies west of Nablus, near the villages of Tel, Jit, and Qusin. From Nablus to Sarra it would be a less than 10 minute drive were it not that the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) have designated the road “a closed military zone.” As a consequence, villagers must take a circuitous route, via Tel, along winding mountain roads, adding to the trip a 35-40 minute detour.
At the end of August, 2007, villagers came together with Israeli and international activists to remove the concrete blocks which bar entry onto the closed military road, a road which aside from being so-designated is a Palestinian road. The successful removal of the blocks was promptly followed by their replacement, with an additional barrier of earth piled on top.
Sarra has long been a village collectively terrorized for a few reasons: its proximity to the road, one which is a main back entrance to Nablus when the IOF invades; its proximity to the illegal Israeli settlement of Qedumim and the military base neighbouring it; and recently, its defiance of IOF arbitrarily-imposed closed zones and harassment.
In the past three weeks, Sarra has near-nightly been invaded by the IOF, usually entering in the evening and harassing villagers. Between 6 and 8pm on October 18, two IOF military vehicles, with approximately 6 soldiers each, entered via a dirt road leading from the militarily-closed road. Soldiers drove up and down village roads, chasing children and adults.
Israeli soldiers overturned a pan of hot frying oil on one restaurant owner, who was just barely able to jump backwards enough so that the oil burned his legs rather than his face and entire body. Another shop-owner reports soldiers entering and stealing candy and cola. A Masters student from Najah University was chased along a street by soldiers throwing rocks. IOF soldiers also attacked and pushed a 10 year old boy to the ground.
Israeli soldiers shot at the water pipes of one house, leaving sizeable marks in the concrete from at least two bullets.
During this time, the IOF did not call a curfew, did not announce any official military order to return to houses, but did maintain a two hour campaign of bullying villagers.
Two weeks prior, in another IOF harassment invasion, soldiers without reason shot at one villager’s car, deflating the tires, riddling the car body with bullet marks, and shattering the windshield.
Three weeks ago, IOF soldiers entered the village throwing sound bombs and tear gas at residents.
This is a village surrounded by olive groves and agricultural land, much of which is inaccessible due to Israeli military orders and closed military zones. The District Coordinating Office (DCO) this year gave permission for only 3 days of olive harvesting on lands cut off from villagers for a task which should take nearly 2 weeks. Villagers tending trees and farmland alongside the militarily-closed road leading to Nablus are routinely interrupted and harassed by passing IOF soldiers, who threaten villagers and order them off of their land.
Jit village lies approximate 2 km away from Sarra but might as well be 30 km away. Rather than being permitted to travel the militarily-closed road, or even the Palestinian land alongside the road, Sarra residents must travel back to Nablus, through Beit Iba checkpoint, and return back in the direction they have come from along a parallel road, a detour which amounts to an hour’s detour.
Jit, in addition to sitting across from the illegal settlement, Qedumim, lies at the road leading both to Ramallah and Tulkarem, an additional reason banned access to the road is a painful reality for Palestinians in the region.