Summary: December 2009 was marked by invasions of Palestinian villages in the area by Israeli occupation forces, continued denial of the right of Palestinian children to access education, and consistent rejection of Palestinian owners’ rights to cultivate or graze sheep on their land. Despite the invasions, challenges faced in accessing education, and obstacles to cultivating the land, Palestinians in the At-Tuwani area continued to organize local marches, plowing actions, and joined in nonviolent actions with other Palestinian communities committed to nonviolent resistance to the Israeli occupation.
Israeli Military Incursions
Tuesday 1 December 2009
In the early morning hours, the Israeli military invaded the village of Maghayir Al-Abeed. Approximately 50 soldiers, 10 jeeps, and a number of helicopters conducted training operations, including shooting exercises, in the village.
Wednesday 2 December
Two military vehicles entered At-Tuwani at 4:15 am and went to a number of houses, pounding on doors, harassing the inhabitants, and checking identification. The soldiers pointed their guns at Palestinians and internationals who opened windows and doors to investigate the noise.
Tuesday 15 December
The Israeli secret police (Shin Bet) entered At-Tuwani and photographed the village. Plainclothes police officers asked villagers about all newly constructed buildings, caves, and cisterns in At-Tuwani. A police officer demanded to see Hough and Nichols’ IDs as soon as they approached the scene. The officer questioned the CPTers as to why they were living in the village, where they were living, which organizations worked in the area, and additionally about the newly constructed houses in the village.
The same morning, there was also an unmarked white airplane that flew unusually low and quietly over the village. Villagers in Tuba also reported seeing the plane, saying that it flew around Tuba in patterns that led them to believe it was taking photographs.
Denial of Right to Education
Thursday 10 December
The villagers of At-Tuwani organized a solidarity demonstration in response to the difficulties faced by the school in Al-Fakheit, located 5km southwest of At-Tuwani. Marchers participated to draw attention to Israel restrictions on the freedom of movement on Palestinian children and teachers.
Following the march, several community leaders gave at the Al-Fakheit School. This was followed by several hours of activities for and by the children of Al-Fakheit School. These included drama, music, dabka dancing (a traditional Palestinian dance), face painting, and a quiz show. Nearly 150 people attended the event, including various activists and journalists, as well as a Palestinian theater troupe from the northern West Bank.
The Israeli military maintained a presence sporadically throughout the march. While the march proceeded from At-Tuwani to Al-Fakheit, the Israeli military and police declared At-Tuwani a closed military zone in an attempt to prevent activists or journalists from entering the area. See a gallery of photos from the march here.
Monday 14 December
Nichols and Southworth monitored the Beit Yatir checkpoint, on the southern border of the West Bank, where Palestinian children from the village of Lesaafer pass through on their way to school. Lesaafer is on Palestinian land annexed into Israel by the separation barrier, forcing the residents of the village to pass through the checkpoint to access work, education, or other services. The children, who walk from Lesaafer through the Beit Yatir checkpoint to their school in Imneizel, are sometimes detained for more than one hour.
Sunday 20 December
In the afternoon the Israeli military detained teachers, children, and internationals returning from Al-Fakheit School. Soldiers confiscated the ID of the driver, who was transporting the teachers and students, and forced him and MacDonald to drive to a remote field south of the Palestinian village of Jinba. The schoolchildren and the teachers were forced to walk home. The soldiers proceeded to examine the truck’s registration and serial numbers, took photos of the truck, and confiscated the ignition key.
After hours of detainment, the Palestinian driver and MacDonald were told to leave the area. The owner of the truck was not able to retrieve his vehicle because the soldiers remained by the vehicle for some time. On 2 January, the owner found his vehicle completely destroyed in an Israeli military firing zone. Many of the vehicle parts had been confiscated or smashed, including the headlights, battery, and much of the engine. (See the CPTnet release: SOUTH HEBRON HILLS: Israeli army confiscates truck,
forcing children and teachers to walk an hour to homes.) Christian Peacemaker Teams and OD have been providing accompaniment for the teachers and students of Al-Fakheit School who face continuing delays and movement restrictions at the hands of the Israeli military.
Wednesday 30 December
Video to the right.
An Israeli settler from the Israeli outpost of Havat Ma’on chased and attacked Palestinian schoolchildren from the villages of Tuba and Maghayir al-Abeed while the children were waiting to walk to school. Tareq Ibrahim Abu Jundiyye reported, “the younger kids started crying as we were running away because they were afraid the settler would catch them. I mean, we had to run away, if I would have stayed I would have been struck on the head by a rock.” The Israeli army exposed the children to this attack by arriving more than 90 minutes late to escort them to school. (See the CPTnet release: AT-TUWANI: Israeli army negligence permits Israeli settler attack on children.)
Thursday 31 December
During the afternoon escort of Palestinian school children from Tuba and Maghayir al-Abeed, an Israeli settler woman approached the children. After a verbal altercation between the settler and the children, the woman made a phone call, and the Ma’on settlement security guard chased the children into At-Tuwani village, some distance from where the children meet their Israeli military escort.
Palestinians Plowing Land Despite Obstacles
Thursday 3 December
Nichols and Southworth accompanied Palestinians plowing land between Qawawis and Susiya. After a few hours of plowing, Israeli settlers from Mizpe Yair (Magen David) forcibly stopped the plowing. One settler stood in front of the tractor while the other stole its key. Shortly after the settlers made several phone calls, the military, police, and District Coordinating Office (DCO, the branch of the Israeli military which deals with Palestinian civilian affairs in Area C) arrived. The DCO prohibited the Palestinians from plowing the plot. Instead, the military allowed Palestinians to plow only a small additional portion of the field.
Saturday 5 December
Palestinians living in Yatta attempted to plow the field between the Palestinian village of Um Fagarah the Israeli outpost of Avigail. Israeli settlers, accompanied by Israeli soldiers, forcibly stopped the work of the Palestinians. The settlers brought aggressive dogs and ignored the Palestinians’ and internationals’ requests to control them. After several minutes of arguing, a soldier jumped up on the tractor and screamed orders and threats at the Palestinian driving the truck. After this incident the Palestinians decided to return home instead of risking the confiscation of their equipment.
The same day, Palestinians also attempted to plow a valley between the Palestinian village of Shi’b Al-Butum and the Israeli outpost of Mizpe Yair (Magen David). Settlers and the outpost security guard immediately approached the farmers and remained present until a group of Israeli soldiers arrived. The soldiers immediately stopped the work, simply claiming that plowing in the area was forbidden. The soldiers refused to look at the landowner’s paperwork, which showed him to be the owner of the entire valley. Officers from the DCO arrived and spoke with the settlers and the Palestinian land owner. The DCO officers told the land owner that he could plow no closer to the outpost than he had already plowed. The land owner told CPTers that until two years ago he was able to plow the all valley, up to the outpost. The last two years, the Israeli military has prohibited him plowing all of the land that he owns.
The same DCO officers stopped another Palestinian man from plowing his land on an adjacent hillside. The DCO officer detained the owner’s son, who was driving the tractor, and threatened to arrest him and confiscate the tractor if he continued to plow. The officer chided the driver, telling the young man he did not want to be a bad boy by disobeying an officer. The officer said he was prohibiting the work was because the man was plowing on the hillside, claiming that Palestinians could only cultivate privately-owned land in a valley.
Sunday 6 December
Israeli settlers plowed privately-owned Palestinian land in Umm Zeituna valley. In 1999, Palestinian families living in Umm Zeituna were forced off the land by settler violence. The Palestinian land owners have been reluctant to return to their land because of continuing settler violence and harassment. The owners have filed multiple complaints to the police regarding the violence against them and the confiscation of their land. However, no legal action has been taken against the settlers.
Saturday 12 December
Villagers from At-Tuwani plowed Khelli valley, privately-held Palestinian land between At-Tuwani and the settlement of Ma’on. The Israeli military declared the area a closed military zone. The Palestinians finished later in the afternoon, when the military had left the area.
Palestinian Nonviolent Resistance Unites
Tuesday 29 December
Women and men from the entire South Hebron Hills region went on a solidarity visit to the Palesitinian villages of Bil’in and Ni’lin. The visit began with a demonstration at Ofer prison and military base, near Ramallah. Several nonviolent resistance organizers have recently been imprisoned at Ofer. Palestinians from Bil’in, Ni’lin, and the South Hebron Hills gathered at Ofer to call for the release of these leaders. (See ISM article on this demonstration.). After the demonstration, the villagers from the South Hebron Hills proceeded to Ni’lin and Bil’in to hear those communities talk about their resistance to the confiscation of their land and the restriction of their freedom of movement.