Two Palestinians were injured and five Israeli activists arrested in the village of Turmas’ayya during an Israeli settler attack.
Israeli settlers from the illegal settlement outpost near Shilo surrounded villagers from nearby Turmas’ayya during the yearly Palestinian olive harvest, attacking two villagers who had been separated from the rest of the harvest. Talal Gebrara, an elderly member of the Turmas’ayya municipality, had parked his car and was walking back to the mountains when he was confronted by a carload of Israeli settlers, yelling at him in Hebrew. ‘I didn’t know what they were saying, but I knew they wanted to fight me’. Settlers then punched him in the head, the blow striking his temple. Talal recalls that he tried to fight back, but was quickly overwhelmed when two more carloads of settlers arrived. ‘I am just one old man, and there were twelve of them, from 25 to 40 years old’. After suffering a few more blows, Talal ran over to the nearby Israeli military, who had been standing by, doing nothing to protect him. With the soldiers, he walked back to his car, and found it had been destroyed by the settlers – windows and windscreen smashed and all tyres slashed. Another car parked nearby also had its windscreen and windows smashed by the settlers.
Villagers also report a woman from the village was then attacked by settlers as she made her way back from the olive groves towards the road. Despite having her five small children with her, settlers reportedly sprayed an unknown burning substance in her face, causing redness and swelling.
During these attacks, a 90 year old shelter in the olive groves, belonging to a Palestinian family was torched by unknown persons. Awad Hazama, whose family owns the shelter and the surrounding lands, was harvesting olives at the time, but didn’t see the arsonists. He was accompanied to the lands by Israeli activists, due to the threat of settler violence, which was suspected due to the recent erection of an illegal settlement outpost on the lands.
The accompanying Israeli activists saw the flames and moved closer in order to take photos, when they were set upon by settlers throwing stones at them. The activists report that they attempted to run away, but were cornered by a settlement security guard, who, loading a gun in their faces, demanded they get into his security car, while he called the police. Quickly, they were surrounded by settlers armed with clubs and machine guns. The activists, fearing for their lives, were removed from the situation when they were arrested by Israeli police officers on unsubstantiated charges of arson.
Activists report that the charges were based on the accusations of one settler who they claim was not present during the event. The accusations were levelled at one activist in particular, an elderly photographer.
Villagers, including the family who own the land and structure, reject any suggestion that the Israeli activists were involved in the fire. ‘That’s not true. No’, said Talal, who drove the activists to the olive groves. Many villagers, rather, believe that it was the settlers who torched the shelter, in order to disrupt the Palestinian olive harvest.
‘When they make trouble like this, it’s good for them, because military come and everybody comes and it makes a big problem. Then next year when we want to go to our lands, they [Israeli DCO] will say no.’
Currently Palestinians from Turmas’ayya are only allowed to access these olive groves during olive harvest. They report that if they attempt to go at other times they are attacked by settlers and driven away. This is the second incident during Turmas’ayya’s olive harvest this year, following harassment by settlers on Sunday.