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Israeli settlers lay in front of tractors; attempt to prohibit Palestinian agricultural work

23 January 2011 | Operation Dove & Christian Peacemaker Teams

At-Tuwani, South Hebron Hills, West Bank – On Saturday, 22nd of January, Palestinian farmers successfully plowed fields in Khoruba valley, despite heavy harassment by settlers from the nearby settlement of Ma’on.

In the early morning, about twenty farmers from At-Tuwani started sowing seed and plowing fields in Khoruba valley, southeast from At-Tuwani. Soon thereafter, five settlers arrived from nearby Havat Ma’on outpost and positioned themselves in front of the tractors, in an attempt to prevent the farmers from completing their work. As more settlers arrived, tempers flared and the farmers attempted to move the settlers and physically block them from interfering with the land cultivation.

Approximately thirty minutes later, Israeli soldiers and Border Police arrived and immediately stopped the tractors from plowing. The Israeli forces took the ID cards of three farmers while removing both settlers and farmers from the immediate vicinity of the tractors.

The Israeli District Coordinating Office (DCO), the branch of the Israeli military responsible for the coordination of civilian affairs, later confirmed the right of Palestinians to plow the fields but the Border Police requested that all Palestinians and international peace activists leave the area, except for the farmers directly involved in the agricultural work.

Three settler youths moved from Khoruba valley to an area one kilometer south where they stopped another tractor from plowing and proceeded to throw stones at a Palestinian shepherd and his flock. Israeli forces again intervened, removing the settler youths from the area.

After the completion of the agricultural work, one Palestinian farmer was taken to the Kiryat Arba police station for questioning, and later released, after a settler made a formal complaint that he was assaulted.

An international delegation with four British MPs, was present for part of the incident and spoke with Palestinian farmers, Israeli forces, and an Israeli settler.

In the last five years, through several coordinated nonviolent actions, Palestinians from At-Tuwani and Yatta have successfully cultivated fields previously made inaccessible due to settler violence and harassment, Through the reacquisition of this land, Palestinians are asserting their right to the land and working to ensure their food security for the coming seasons.

Operation Dove and Christian Peacemaker Teams have maintained an international presence in At-Tuwani and South Hebron Hills since 2004.

[Note: According to the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Hague Regulations, the International Court of Justice, and several United Nations resolutions, all Israeli settlements and outposts in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal. Most settlement outposts, including Havat Ma’on (Hill 833), are considered illegal also under Israeli law.]