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Army continue to restrict farmers’ access to fields during olive harvest in Salim

19 October 2009

The farmers from Salim, a village located north east of Nablus and close to the illegal Israeli settlement Elon Moreh, faced numerous problems throughout this year’s olive harvest. The army prevented them on several occasions from accessing a substantial amount of farmland lying behind the gates of the settler-only road, issued Closed Military Zone orders and threatened the farmers with imposing fines of up to 6,000 shekels if they invite international volunteers to accompany them to the olive groves.

Ten years ago, an Israeli-only road (557) was built between the settlements of Elon Moreh and Itamar, drawn through the Salim fields, cutting off land belonging to 150 families from the village. During the first and second intifada, Salim farmers were shot at while trying to access their fields. Until now, Palestinians are not allowed to be near or cross the road, except during the olive harvest season. Even then, the Israeli Occupation Soldiers position themselves at the road gate crossing to road 557 every year, slowing, tracking and in some cases preventing families from accessing their land on the other side.

In one of these incidents, on Saturday 17 October, the army jeeps and several soldiers blocked the gate, resulting in 150 villagers waiting to access their land and tractors and other vehicles lining up on the track. The soldiers refused to allow the Palestinian access unless the international volunteers, who were accompanying them, retreat to the village. After the volunteers withdrew, the army allowed access by foot for about ten minutes and later opened the gate for tractors only. Drivers of other vehicles were allowed to pass only after submitting their IDs, while the army took notes of their car registration numbers.

International volunteers have been accompanying farmers from Salim to their olive groves since the harvest commenced in the village earlier this month. On one occasion, the Israeli soldiers told the farmers that they will be fined 6,000 shekels if they visit their lands accompanied by international activists. The army also issued Closed Military Zone orders in order to prevent international activists from accessing the groves along with the farmers.

Aside from the agricultural and economic problems Salim suffers from its proximity to Elon Moreh, the village has received orders to halt work on the construction of seven houses, under threat of demolition if they proceed. The homes lie on the edge of the village in Area C (under Israeli control) and the orders appear to be a part of a greater scheme to prevent the expansion of Palestinian communities.