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Female students of Madama school subject to constant harassment from Israeli army

12 January 2010

Israeli Occupation Forces entered the northern West Bank village of Madama last night, damaging 5 houses and terrifying residents. The military has upped their presence in Madama in recent weeks, with the harassment of female students on their way to school becoming commonplace, and the creation of a new roadblock separating hundreds of farmers from their land.

Approximately 20 soldiers entered the village late last night in military jeeps, the explosion of sound bombs announcing their arrival. The Israeli Occupation Forces remained in the village for approximately 2 hours. The exterior of 5 Madama homes were damaged during the incursion.

The Israeli army is a regular presence in the village. The girls school as become a frequent target for military harassment and intimidation, situated on the northern edge of the village and a mere 100 metres from the Israeli-only road that runs east to Yitzhar settlement. Military jeeps patrol the road, often slowing down or stopping to harass the school’s 338 students, aged from 6 to 18 years, during their breaktimes.

Curfews and flying checkpoints are also regularly established on the edge of, or inside the village, disrupting the girls’ access to school in the morning. Harrasment has increased particularly over the last two weeks, during the already stressful period of exams. Pupils now leave very promptly at the end of school, often met by parents.

Last month the Israeli army erected a giant earth mound across a crucial agricultural road that passes under the settler road and situated next to the school. The road block severely limits hundreds of farmers’ access to their lands, making transport by vehicle all but impossible dealing a severe – and intentional – blow to the village’s chief economy.

Madama’s economy has suffered greatly as a result. In addition to the creeping strangulation of the village’s agricultural livelihood, the Zone C boundary circulating the village prevents both residential building expansion and development work on the village football ground and new work in the stone quarries.

The formation of Yizthar settlement to the south of Madama in 1982 constituted the theft of over 1000 dunams (1 dunam=0.1 hectare) of vital land from Madama farmers, in addition to annexation of land from the neighbouring villages of Burin, Asira al-Qabliya, Urif, Einabus and Huwara. The entirety of Madama’s water wells are situated on the 1000 dunums, forcing the villages’ 1,800 residents to purchase their water supply from outside sources, a 90 litre tank costing an average of 120 NIS.

Madama’s location in a precarious Zone B/Zone C corridor has had a detrimental effect on all aspects of life in the village, as residents can only watch as wanton military harassment surges and creeping annexation of land gradually limits their freedom. The settlement of Qedumim stretches out to the west, Yitzhar to the south, Bracha to the north east and Itamar to the east. The erection of a new military watchtower to the village’s north, and restriction from Palestinians entering the surrounding area, may herald the development of yet another new settlement outpost.