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Dark days in Al Buwayra: a week of settler attacks

Al Buwayra is a small village located on the outskirts of Hebron, with about 560 inhabitants. Most people are farmers, growing grapes and vegetables to support themselves. The situation in the village is critical, and villagers are repeatedly being attacked by settlers from the illegal Kyriat Arba and Harzina settlements which surround the village as well as several illegal outposts.

The road into the village is blocked by a gate and an earth mound set up by the Israeli army, forcing the villagers to either climb or drive a long way in order to enter their homes. Since the Israeli army began demolishing two of the five illegal outposts around Buwayra, settlers have carried out several attacks both on the villagers, their farmland and their animals. Daily life is a struggle with good reason to be constantly afraid. ISM, in close cooperation with CPT, has been going to Buwayra almost every day over the last 3 weeks, when the army removed the first illegal outpost and the settlers started to attack the Palestinians in response.

Thursday 5 August

Death threats towards two internationals, attack on Susan Sultan.

Early Thursday morning, around 6.30, soldiers from the Israeli army came to remove an illegal outpost near a settlement. ISM and CPT sent people there straight away to make sure the soldiers and settlers didn’t harass Palestinians. The settlers were really angry and the villagers feared that the settlers would retaliate against the Palestinians. The settlers set fire to a small piece of Palestinian farmland but luckily the Palestinians themselves were able to put out the fire. There were internationals present almost the whole day. Two internationals, one from Denmark and the other from England, received two death threats from settlers because of their presence in the area. The outpost was removed and the soldiers tried to block the way to outpost but after the soldiers left the settlers started on clearing the road and rebuilding the outpost.

On the evening of August 5th Suzan Jamil Sultan, 51, a university English teacher was in her car, with her three children aged 2, 3 and 8 in the backseat, driving towards her home, at around 21.30 at night. Near her home, which has an outpost located near to it, she saw a car parked across the narrow road, blocking it. She also saw a car with a blue light, and assumed it was a police car, and therefore thought it was safe to drive on. Suddenly at least ten settlers appeared, and they started throwing stones to her car. She was scared, and her children were crying. She tried to reverse the car, but was not able to move on the narrow road.

Suzan then got out of the car, as she wanted to protect the children from getting hurt. The settlers attacked her with stones, hitting her in the head, in her side and her hand. She remembers that she fell, and couldn’t hear or see for some minutes, and when she was able to see again the settlers were gone. She then saw that the blue light belonged to the settler’s security car, parked near where she was attacked. She then asked the driver: “Did you see what they did?” in English. The man answered that he doesn’t speak English. Suzan’s daughter then arrived and helped her and her children home. She had to go to hospital and needed three stitches on her hand. She was still suffering from pain in the head and side, and had a bandage on her hand when ISM activists spoke talked to her the following Monday and her whole family, she said, were scared to move around the open fields where they might encounter settlers.

Friday 6 August

Two internationals attacked. Three Palestinians arrested at night, while trying to defend a family from settler attack.

ISM sent two people to replace the people from CPT that had spent the night in Al Buwayra. The situation up until 12.00 was quiet

Canadian activist Peter Cunliffe after he was left with a broken nose following an attack by masked Israeli settlers in Al Buwayra

At 12.00 the two internationals were sitting in the shade under a tree when three masked settlers appeared out of nowhere and attacked. There carried wooden and metal sticks. The internationals were severely beaten. After the attack, which lasted only 2 minutes, the settlers ran towards the outpost. Family members from the Sultani house helped the internationals to stop the bleeding and protected them from further attacks. They were taken to Al Khalil hospital and one needed surgery on a broken nose and is still recovering from his injuries.

That night 100 settlers threw stones at the Sultans house because the Sultans helped the two internationals that were attacked. When soldiers arrive most of the settlers leave the crime scene but one settler stays back to tell the soldiers that it’s the Palestinians that have been attacking the settlers and not the other way around. Three Palestinians were arrested at night while they were trying to defend and protect the Sultan house from the settler attack. It is known that two of them have been released.

Saturday 7 August

Closed Military Zone. Settlers set fire to grape vines.

Early on Saturday morning six people from ISM went to Al Buwayra. At first things seemed calm but after a while, when sitting close to the outpost, activists were approached by soldiers who said the area was a closed military zone and that the internationals had to leave. They moved a little away.

At night the settlers set fire to a field of Palestinian grapevines and a fire truck was called. However, the Palestinians ended up putting out the fire themselves.

Sunday 8 August

In the morning internationals tried to go into Al Buwayra but were refused access by the soldiers saying once again that the village was a closed military zone and that the internationals could not go and visit families and take pictures of the damage caused by the settler attacks.

Later three internationals, one from CPT and two from ISM, go by car and enter the village. The border police spotted the internationals quickly but after a talk with the commander the internationals and the Palestinian driving the car were allowed to go and visit one family for half an hour. The family spoke about what it is like to live in constant danger and fear of the settlers. From the family house settlers could be seen walking in the hills close to the outpost.

Monday 9 August

On Monday internationals made it in to Al Buwayra. By taking the back way the internationals avoided being seen by the border police and were able to go and speak to different families. The internationals saw settlers walking around the outpost but overall things seemed to be calm. But the villagers live in constant fear. They have trouble sleeping because they never know when to expect a settler attack. They are really worried about the future and when things are quiet for a few days they know that this is only a brief respite before a new settler attack.