13 July 2009
Monday, July 13, 2009, PSP received reports that farmland in Saffa area of Beit Ommar had been set on fire by settlers from neighboring Bat ‘Ayn. Initially, a PSP committee member and the mayor of Beit Ommar went into the valley, owned by Abu Jabber Soleiby, to assess the damage. In the afternoon, when the fire had still not be put out, international activists arrived with a large group of Beit Ommar residents along with media representatives. Fire trucks from Hebron initially could not reach the fire from the Beit Ommar/Saffa side and there were only two tools available to fight the fire, that was rapidly spreading across the valley threatening homes in Saffa due to unfavorable wind conditions.
The fire was put out by local residents and a Palestinian fire truck that arrived just as the fire had been brought under control. A local farmer with a tractor carting a water tank used hoses to control the fire before it breached onto adjacent farmland. It took Palestinians and small group of internationals roughly 30 minutes to control the fire as winds subsided briefly.
In Bat ‘Ayn, a small group of settlers were cheering, clapping and shouting in Hebrew as the fire spread to larger areas of the Palestinian land. Just below the top of the hill where settlement houses rest, two Israeli fire trucks sat idle to ensure the fire did not encroach on settlement land. This sight was a cruel reminder that Palestinian land in Saffa, and the larger Occupied Palestinian Territories, can be destroyed by settlers and/or Israeli military with little to no recourse, with the eventual goal being annexation of Palestinian land to expand on existing settlements like Bat ‘Ayn.