The village of Marda, in the Salfit region of the West Bank, was again placed under curfew on Friday 30th November. Israeli soldiers invaded the village at approximately 2pm, with four jeeps shooting sound bombs, tear gas, and live ammunition to force the villagers off the streets.
One youth was randomly abducted as he attempted to make his way home at the announcement of the curfew. Soldiers handcuffed him and held him in a jeep for one hour, before releasing him. Hammed, aged 16, and a student at the Lutheran High School in Jerusalem, was home to visit his family for the first time in three weeks. Before releasing him, soldiers took his permit to enter Jerusalem to attend school and destroyed it – tearing it into pieces. Hammed is unsure as to how long it will take to acquire another permit, or if indeed it will be possible at all. In the mean time he will be unable to pass through the checkpoint at Qalandia, and as such unable to attend school.
Marda, home to 2400 Palestinians, is subject to such curfews and random abductions of young men at least once a week, residents explained – sometimes as many as two or three times per week, and lasting from a few hours to a few days. Incidents of soldiers invading homes and shooting once inside, as well as shooting tear gas and sound booms inside homes are not uncommon. Residents also report Israeli soldiers breaking windows of homes with rocks and uprooting olive trees on Marda land, with over 1000 olive trees destroyed.
Residents were forced to remain in their homes for three hours, as Israeli jeeps patrolled the streets. Others were stuck outside the village gate, such as a local teacher who was forced to wait at the gate for two hours, unable to enter even on foot. Preparations for the children’s festival, held by the Marda Development Charity Society were interrupted, as soldiers forced all volunteers in the centre to return home. The festival for small children is being held to ameliorate the angst and sadness caused by the invasions and arrests.
The official excuse given for these invasions is that boys are throwing stones at the Israeli road that passes to the North of the village, meaning that the curfews constitute acts of collective punishment – illegal under international law. Residents deny the stone-throwing allegations, and evidence is rarely presented. Instead, youths aged between twelve and seventeen years are routinely abducted and detained for a few hours, usually beaten and often driven out of the village before being released without charge. Some residents suspect their village is being used as a training ground for Israeli troops – a documented practice within the Salfit region and a clear violation of international law.
Marda, situated in the shadow of the enormous Israeli settlement of Ariel, is enclosed by Israeli fences, now with only one vehicular entrance upon which an Israeli road gate is mounted, making closure of the village simple and instantaneous. As one resident remarked “easily it becomes a jail”.