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International activists beaten, arrested attempting to accompany farmers in Saffa

Palestine Solidarity Project

15 August 2009

Today, at 8 am, international activists with the Palestine Solidarity Project and International Solidarity Movement, along with Palestinian members of PSP, accompanied the family of Abu Jabber Soleiby to plow their land in Saffa, near the illegal Israeli settlement Bat ’Ayin. The family has been confronted with ongoing harrasment by the Israeli Military and violent attacks by settlers from Bat ’Ayin. Today, the group of over 20 people was stopped by dozens of Israeli soldiers and Border Police near the edge of the Saffa built-up area. Initially, the military insisted that the farmers needed permits, and then IDs, to enter their privately-owned agricultural land. The Soleiby family has rejected all attempts by the Israeli military to force them to engage in a process of asking permission from the Occupation Forces to enter their own land, and refused to show ID, insisting on their natural right to go to their land, well within Palestinian territory, freely. The military also forbade the entrance of the international activists to the valley, and eventually presented a closed military zone area order. One youth, carrying a Palestinian flag, was violently pushed several times by the Israeli forces.

The group then backed up to what was clearly indicated as the edge of the closed military zone and continued their negotiations with the soldiers to at least allow the farmers into the valley to their land. When the military insisted on seeing IDs, the young children and grandchildren of Abu Jabber, who do not yet carry IDs, asked to enter on their own. The Israeli Forces insisted that they must present their birth certificates in order to access the land. After a short time of negotiating, the military illegal declared, without accompanying paperwork, the entire Saffa area a closed military zone, informing the internationals they had 10 minutes to leave the area. They also forced the media present to remove the batteries from their cameras, obviously preparing for a confrontation they did not want documented. They immediately began violently pushing the group with wooden batons further away from the agricultural area. The Palestinians decided to leave the area, and most of the group began leaving when border police began attacking the back of the group. During a short scuffle, two international women, one from Denmark and one from Germany, were arrested. A third international woman, also from Denmark, was struck on the forehead with a baton as she tried to help the other two detained activists, leaving a significant welt on her head.

The group decided the leave the area, with the farmers committed to returning another time to continue the work on their land without asking for permission.