23 January 2010
On 23 January, Israeli soldiers declared Palestinian land south of the Israeli settlement outpost Havot Ma’on (Hill 833) a closed military zone, then arrested a Palestinian journalist from Pal Media. The journalist was reporting on a demonstration organized by Palestinians from the village of At-Tuwani after the recent destruction of an olive grove. Despite the Israeli military interventions, the Palestinians successfully planted 20 olive trees during their demonstration.
While Palestinian farmers, accompanied by internationals, were planting olive trees, fifteen settlers approached the area, some carrying slingshots. Israeli soldiers and police also entered the area. The soldiers informed the Palestinians that the area was a closed military zone, showing them a map that encompassed a large area south of Havat Ma’on outpost. Police arrested the journalist, saying he had violated the closed military zone order.
At-Tuwani residents organized the demonstration in response to recent property damage. On the afternoon of 14 January, Palestinians discovered that a family-owned olive grove in Khoruba valley had been destroyed. Twenty mature olive trees were broken at their trunks. The family believes that Israeli settlers from the Ma’on settlement and Havot Ma’on outpost are responsible for the vandalism. This is the fifth time since 1997 that settlers have destroyed the olive trees in this grove. This most recent attack on Palestinian agriculture follows a month of Israeli settler violence and harassment aimed at preventing Palestinian farmers from plowing their fields and thus earning their livelihoods. In addition, in recent months, Israeli military have consistently used closed military zone orders to prevent Palestinians from working their lands.