12 September 2009
On Saturday 12 September at 10:30am the village of Azzun in Qalqiliya came under curfew for the third time in 6 days. Soldiers stomped the village announcing curfew over a loudspeaker from a jeep with no explanation for villagers. Villagers were forced to stay in their homes until Iftar, the breaking of fasting during the holy month of Ramadan.
On Tuesday 8 September, one Israeli army jeep entered the village and fired live ammunition into the air. This was then followed by 7 more jeeps who declared a curfew and forced shop owners to close their shops at 5pm shortly before Iftar, and losing the shopkeepers their perishable goods that would be purchased in advance of Iftar. Curfew continued until approximately 2am in the morning when the army invaded and threw sound bombs and sealed off the exits to the village setting up checkpoints and earthmounds to prevent movement. They also harassed villagers in their homes along the main road close to Road 55, an illegal Israeli road which is open in parts to Palestinian traffic.
On Thursday 10 September at 19:30, 2 jeeps with approximately 15-16 soldiers in them, again invaded the village firing live ammunition and tear gas. They proceeded to the boys high school, where local boys were watching and taking part in basketball and other sports. The soldiers gave the boys 2 minutes to return to their homes and leave the school and their activities without any explanation. Upon entering the school the Israeli army arrested two 13 year old boys taking them away to an unknown location. The jeeps then patrolled the village for several hours imposing another curfew on the village.
After midnight the village was then invaded by around 35 jeeps and began searching several homes were they said ‘wanted’ boys were resident. They damaged property and harass the residents. During the searches the army arrested Samir Jamal Ishadey (20 years old), Mohammed Rafah Cartesh and Adham Saahar Saleem (15 years old) taking them from their homes to and unknown location. It is believed while trying to retreat Mohammed was shot by soldiers but when Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance drivers tried to reach the scene the army prevented them. Mohammed was arrested and his condition is unknown.
When the army arrested Samir the army assaulted his brother Muhammed Jamal, attacking him with the but of their rifle on his head and back. This attack was undertaken by a group of soldiers that had verbally abused Muhammed and Samir on Tuesday during the invasion that day, calling him a “son of a bitch”. Muhammed had returned the insult to the soldier and on Thursday the same soldier was part of the group of soldiers that then assaulted him and arrested his brother two days later.
At 5am in the morning of Friday 11 September the Israeli army again imposed curfew and this continued until noon prays that day. Internationals entered the village shortly after noon prayers and soldiers could be seen on the outskirts of the village. While assessing the earthmounds made by the Israeli army to prevent movement in and out of Azzun a farmer was assaulted by a group of soldiers sitting under a tree. He was slapped across his face and internationals proceeded to the area. At 16:00 a group of 20 settlers and 6 cars attempted to come to the outskirts of the village to harass and attack the nearby shops and houses but were prevented by the army.
During the last few months almost 105 boys from the village have been arrested and taken to unknown locations. They can be held for a period of 6 months in administrative detention without access to a lawyer or their family. These periods can be extended indefinitely for ‘security’ purposes that are not disclosed to the detainee. Red Cross and other NGOs organisations are also denied access to detainees or to know there whereabouts for anything up to 20 days. Under Israeli military occupation Palestinians are considered ‘adults’ when they are above 13 years old in direct violation of international law on the rights of children.
The village of Azzun and its neighbours are subject to constant army and settler violence. The village is surrounded by the Apartheid Wall nearby, the illegal settlements of Ma’ale Shomeron and Alfe Menashe and Road 55. The army claim that Palestinian youth throw stones at settler vehicles passing on Road 55. They have closed off by the use of earthmounds 3 exits to the village allowing only one exit via car through the village of Izbat at Tabib and Isla for villagers to gain access to Road 55 and the route to Nablus, Tulkarem and Qalqiliya, vastly extending journey times. During invasions they can easily block this route making it virtually impossible for villagers to move around or gain access to facilities in nearby towns.
Azzun like many other villages has lost thousands of dunams of land to the settlements and the Wall. The Israeli Government has granted permission for a further road connecting the illegal settlements on Azzun land, furthering annexing land, part of PM Netanyhu’s ‘natural growth’ philosophy. The road itself will also have a 600 metre closed military zone surrounding it. A further ‘industrail zone’ has also been granted permission by the Israeli Government for construction and consistently over the last 2 months larger numbers of settlers have been visiting the area which is on land for the Palestinian villages of Azzun and Izbat at Tabib. The area will annex 2,500 dunums of Palestinian land. Villages that were once 2km apart are now separated by a mixture of closed military zones, Walls, fences, earthmounds and settlement buildings.
The Apartheid Wall and settlements are illegal under international law and the International Courts of Justice ruled in 2004 that the Wall should be taken down. Israel continues to build the Wall and expand settlements in direct violation of these rulings. Only 27 per cent of the land behind the Green Line (the armistice line drawn after the 1967 war) in land considered the West Bank is considered free for Palestinians. Over 450,000 settlers reside in the West Bank annexing Palestinian land and demolishing homes to create a network of roads and infrastructure not open for Palestinians despite the land being owned by Palestinians.