18 April 2009
On 18 April Palestinians in the South Hebron Hills reported that Israeli settlers had destroyed a large privately owned Palestinian wheat field by allowing a flock of goats and sheep to graze on it. Palestinian owners discovered the destruction when they arrived to harvest the crops on the morning of 18 April. The field, located in Meshaha Valley, is the property of a family living in the nearby village of At Tuwani.
Also that morning Israeli soldiers declared a large area of land east of At Tuwani to be a closed military zone and forced Palestinian shepherds
and their flocks to leave their land. Land owners and internationals were told they would be subject to arrest if they remained. The soldiers also ordered Palestinian landowners to advise the military every time they intend to access their own land within the zone. Israeli soldiers refused to provide Palestinian land owners with copies of the map of the military zone boundaries and would not state how long the closure would last. Throughout the morning, a group of at least ten Israeli settlers conferred with the soldiers.
The Palestinian owners of the land said the area of destroyed crops was approximately 40 dunum (or approximately 10 acres). Palestinians from At Tuwani and nearby villages have repeatedly observed settlers from the illegal outpost of Havot Ma’on with a flock of sheep and goats grazing on Palestinian land east of the outpost in recent months. Israeli settlers with the flock have threatened Palestinian shepherds and disrupted the grazing of Palestinian flocks on several occasions this spring, prompting Palestinians to file legal complaints against them.
The crop destruction represents a severe economic loss, as the area is experiencing an extremely dry spring and the field was one of the few near At Tuwani which produced a spring wheat crop. Spring crops and the raising of sheep and goats are central to the economy and way of life in Tuwani and the surrounding small villages of the South Hebron Hills, and disruption by the Israeli military or settlers of agricultural work at this time of year constitutes a substantial threat to the villages.