27 October 2009
At around 8am, on Tuesday 27 October, olive farmers from the village of Qaryut, south of Nablus, were physically assaulted by settlers from the nearby illegal settlement of Shilo. At least two Palestinian children were injured by the settlers, one sustaining an injury to his arm and the second one to his foot. When the Israeli forces arrived, they allowed the settlers to leave the scene, as the soldiers started attacking the Palestinians. One man was hit in the back of his head by a soldier’s rifle, only to find himself detained. The Palestinian farmers were ordered to stop picking and return to Qaryut.
Shortly afterwards, however, the village was raided by the army. Fearing that their fathers, husbands and sons would be arrested, the local women formed a human chain around them. The Israeli army responded to this non-violent act of resistance by showering the women with pepper-spray and hiting them with their rifles. It was at this time that Wegdan Mohammad Khalid, a 42 year old woman from Quryat was hit in the back with a rifle butt by an IDF soldier. She was taken to the emergency room at the Rafidiya Hospital in Nablus, suffering from great pains in her back. According to Red Crescent medics, at least five Palestinians were treated for injuries during the morning.
In spite of the heroic, non-violent resistance by the women of Quryat, the army managed to arrest one Palestinian and detained him at the police station in Shilo. Following the arrest, a large congregation of Palestinian men and women assembled near the settlement, demanding his release. For several hours, the villagers stood in solidarity with the detained man and were repeatedly pushed around by the Border Police, who prevented them from getting closer to Shilo.
The attack occured on one of the limited dates the District Coordination Committee (DCO) has allocated to Qaryut for picking olives. Today’s events will thereofre have a significant economic impact on the village, as they have been left with a very little time to pick the remaining olives. The DCO dates in theory allow Palestinians to pick their olives in a safe environment, as the army is obliged to protect them from violent settlers on days that have been allocated to them. It is very unlikely that a new date will be given to the village.
Tragic and pointless as this incident was, Palestinian farmers are regularly subjected to such harassment. In April of this year, 900 dunums of land were stolen from the village for the construction of roads solely for the benefit of the army and illegal settlers. While this is defended as ‘necessary for logistics’, there are already reports of the land being used for agriculture by the settlers. Qaryut is surrounded on three sides by these illegal settlements and as such finds itself in a very difficult situation.