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Farmers attempting to reach their fields in Deir Istiya turned back by settlers

International Women’s Peace Service

20 March 2009

IWPS was asked to accompany around 20 farmers, including children, from Deir Istiya to their fields in Wadi Qana. The only road leading to their fields passes from the illegal Israeli settlement of Yaqir, which is also illegal according to Israeli law. The farmers were planning on preparing the ground to plant olive trees which would be partly funded by PARC the Palestinian Agricultural Council. The farmers were in contact with both the Palestinians DCL and Israeli DCO who both gave their consent and approval for the farmers to go to their fields.

When the villagers arrived at the entrance of the Yaqir settlement a settler immediately came towards the farmers and asked them to go back. The farmers told him that they wanted to work in their fields. The settler was joined by three other settlers. They were very aggressive and shouted at the farmers telling them that the road was an Israeli only road and that no Palestinian could be there. One army jeep arrived on site and after asking one farmer to put up his t-shirt and jumper they asked the farmers for why they where there.

Another jeep with four other soldiers and a police car with four police officers also arrived on site. The farmers explained that they had permission from the Israeli DCO to go to their fields to which the Police said that he would not let us go to their fields regardless of what the Israeli DCO had said. The farmer phoned the Palestinian DCL , who had been communicating with their Israeli DCO, and asked the police to talk to him over the phone. The police arrogantly refused to talk to the Palestinian DCL. A few minutes later the Palestinian DCL came in person and spoke with the soldiers. Finally, the Israeli DCO together with Yasser Hamed, the Palestinian General Manager of Civil Affairs for Sulfit promised to meet together this Sunday and find a sustainable solution to this problem. A soldier excused himself with an IWPS volunteer for not being able to allow the farmers to go to their lands.

Former attempts to reach their fields ended always in being heavily attacked by the settlers. The fields consist of 7000 dunams and they belong to several families who in all number more than 200 people.