24 April 2009[Note: According to the Geneva Conventions, the International Court of Justice in the Hague, and numerous United Nations resolutions, all Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal. Most settlement outposts are considered illegal under Israeli law.]
On 23 April Israeli soldiers arrested a Palestinian journalist in the village of Um al Kheir and declared the village a closed military zone after settlers from the nearby settlement of Karmel resumed construction of a road on Palestinian land. The proposed road passes within a few meters of Palestinian homes, animal enclosures and gardens. Due to a pending legal action in Israeli court filed by Um al Kheir villagers, settlers had previously suspended construction but resumed the work Thursday afternoon.
When he observed internationals filming the road construction, the Karmel settlement security guard called the Israeli military. Soldiers arrived
quickly, and when internationals asked for an explanation, they were told to wait for police. Police arrived shortly and stated that the bulldozer
was being used for “military work.” At 12:00pm, an officer arrived in a second military jeep and declared the area a closed military zone for 24 hours. Soldiers forced the journalists and internationals to leave, and arrested a journalist who did not leave immediately.
Villagers from Um al Kheir reported on Friday that work on the road had been suspended, but stated that they feared it would resume in a few days time. A legal complaint filed by the village states that the proposed road is an expansion of the settlement of Karmel and is therefore illegal. Um al Kheir residents have witnessed substantial expansion of Karmel settlement in recent months. The contested road is planned to surround
the existing settlement, effectively expanding its borders.
The Palestinian villagers of Um al Kheir bought the land on which the village now lies fifty years ago, when the state of Israel was created. At that time they were forced to flee their homes in the area south of Arad.
The village of Um al Kheir has also experienced recent settler violence and harassment. On 10 April four male settlers attacked three women from the village as the women grazed sheep near the village. One of the women, who is eight months pregnant, required hospitalization for a serious injury to her arm. The women have filed a legal complaint against the four settlers.
The residents of Um al Kheir remain committed to nonviolent resistance to settler harassment and settlement expansion.