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Azzoun Under Curfew

Tonight the village of Azzoun is once again under curfew. For the sixth time in eleven days, residents have been forced to stay indoors, under threat of extreme punishment. At 4pm Israeli soldiers entered the town, arresting four youths, and firing sound bombs, tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition, calling for residents to withdraw from the streets and for shops to close.

The arrested youths were pulled from an internet cafe, where they were playing computer games, and are currently in prison. Two youths were arrested in a similar curfew yesterday, one of whom is still in prison in Nablus. Over the past eleven days over fifteen people have been arrested, most of them accused of having thrown stones, or of having the intention to throw stones. One 18 year old man was shot in the head with a rubber bullet, hospitalising him. Another 56 year old man was injured when a sound bomb was fired into his home, setting fire to his leg.

This has been an ongoing pattern of behavior since this round of curfews began on 31st October. Residents have been subject to tear gas and sound bombs being shot into their homes, their cars and their shops. Tonight, a father collecting medicine for his daughter was forced to leave the pharmacy empty handed as soldiers fired a sound bomb into the shop, compelling it to close. Eleven days ago, the same family had the doors of their home destroyed and tear gas fired into their house, while soldiers outside shot holes in their water tanks, leaving them without water for two days. During the curfew imposed on Wednesday 7th November, more than 200 sound bombs were discharged.

Access to the main road from Azzoun to Nablus and Qalquilia has been prevented for the past eleven days by Israeli army roadblocks, while the road from Azzoun to Tulkarem has been closed since 6pm today. Other roads from the village currently remain open, although they have been totally closed four times during this period, sealing the village. Checkpoints have also been randomly established between Azzoun and the village of Isa, as well as between Isa and the village of Ezbet Altabib, making travel between these towns impossible when under curfew. These curfews not only affect the people of Azzoun and surrounding villages, but effectively obstruct freedom of movement for people in at least fifteen villages to the south of Azzoun, as all access to the north is through Azzoun.

Soldiers are justifying these curfews by claiming that youths are throwing stones when Israeli army vehicles enter the town. Residents, however, suspect the curfews are implemented to facilitate construction of the second stage of the apartheid wall that separates Palestinians from illegal Israeli settlements, and confiscates many thousands of dunums of Palestinian land.

The 11,000 people of Azzoun wait in their homes to find out when they will be again allowed out, but have little hope of leading normal lives over the coming days, as they expect more road closures to be effected and curfews to continue.