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Settlers illegal attempt to occupy land owned by Qarawat Bani Hasan and Dier Istiya

International Women’s Peace Service

1 January 2010

On 31 December 2009 IWPS received a call from the Mayor of Qarawat Bani Hasan to participate in a demonstration in solidarity with the residents of their village. The non-violent, peaceful demonstration organized by the Municipality took place on January 1 2009, and was in response to increase settler activity in the area.

The Mayor of Qarawat Bani Hasan reported that over the period of the last month armed Israeli Settlers and Israeli military from the illegal outpost of Havot Yair had been harassing and attacking farmers and shepherds who work regularly on land approximately a kilometer from the village centre. The land in the region in question is jointly owned by the villages of Qarawat Bani Hasan and Deir Istyia and hosts an ancient fresh water spring which is regularly utilised by farmers and shepherds from both villages. The Mayor also informed IWPS volunteers that the area is often visited by children from Qarawat Bani Hasan, who have also faced physical abuse by armed settlers from Havot Yair.

The illegal settler outpost of Havot Yair is an off shoot of the illegal Israeli colony of Yaqir and was first established in 1999, only to be later evacuated and re-established in 2001. The illegal outpost is located on a hill top, which is one – two kilometres from the valley in which the ancient spring is located.

Seven days ago, villagers notified the Mayor of Qarawat Bani Hasan that the illegal settlers had begun carrying out significant construction work in the spring area. This included the construction of a road and the digging of additional wells and cisterns (all of which were visible when IWPS visited the area). Villagers reported that the work carried out by the illegal settlers had taken place during the night.

The Mayor informed IWPS volunteers that on December 31 he visited the spring area in order to ascertain what settler activity was taking place, and to peacefully ask the settlers to cease illegal construction on his village’s land. According to the Mayor, the illegal settler he spoke to refused to cease construction and stated that the land was supposedly not being used by the village of Qarawat Bani Hasan and that he (the settler) was entitled to act on the Ottoman Law, utilized by the Israeli state, to claim ‘unused’ Palestinian land as ‘state land’.

In response to the illegal settler activity of their land, the residents of Qarawat Bani Hasan, decided to hold a demonstration in order to re-assert their ownership of the land. Approximately 100 residents of Qarawat Bani Hasan including children, were joined at the rally by the Assistant District Governor of the Salfit region; the Mayor of Deir Istyia; village activists from Deir Istyia, Hares and Marda; and volunteers from the International Women’s Peace Service.

The strong rally marched from the village centre to the spring valley region. The rally was accompanied by a ‘bagger’ (bulldozer/excavator machinery) organised by the Municipality, with the aim of reclaiming and rehabilitating the land in response to the settler construction activity. Upon reaching the valley and spring area, a noisy but peaceful demonstration ensued, with the bagger clearing a roadblock erected by the illegal settlers and refilling the large cistern/well chamber dug up by the settlers.

Over the coming weeks, the residents of Qarawat Bani Hasan hope to continue work on the rehabilitation of spring valley area and to carry out of range of non-violent peace programs to re-assert their ownership of the land.