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“Holy water” in Qusra attracts violent settlers

18 September 2011 | International Solidarity Movement, West Bank

While farming their land in the village of Qusra, 50 year old Fathalla and his three sons were attacked by a group of armed settlers on the morning of September 16th. The attack came amid recent increase of settler violence in anticipation of the UN vote on recognition of Palestinian state.

Fathalla and his three sons were working in a fig orchad, when one of the boys heard someone breaking the lock on their well. They saw 9 armed settlers, three of them with M-16 and the rest with pistols and a dog. The Abu Reida family decided to hold back the settlers until Israeli military arrived. Following a similar incident, Palestinians reported settler attacks to the Israeli district coordination office, but were dismissed and told to “hold back settlers” next time there is an incident  until the army could arrive.

As Fathalla and his sons approached the well, they noticed that one of the settlers was taking a bath in the well, which houses water used for both farming and drinking by the Palestinian family.

“I’m afraid to drink this water now. I think they dirtied it, and maybe even poisoned it, as has happened in the past,”  said Fathalla, adding that settlers believed that water from that area was holy and bathing in it rinsed all sins.

In the mean time, one of the Fathalla sons called Qusra’s local sheikh, who announced on the villages loudspeakers that settlers had invaded the village. Fathalla and his sons were preventing settlers from leaving by blocking a fenced road running through the fields. Settlers kept firing their guns in the air.

When villagers approached, settlers panicked and one of them jumped the fence. Fathalla’s19-year-old son followed  one of the settler’s who was armed with an M-16.

Another settler released the dog, which attack the young man. As he was being attack and fell to the ground, the settler broke his leg. His brothers left the other settlers to flee, while they assisted their injured brother.

As they were escaping the scene, settlers shot random series of live ammunitation in the direction of villagers, wounding Fathalla Abu Reida in his thigh.

Tought by the previous experience with reporting settlers attacks, Fathalla sons took plenty of pictures documenting the entire incident. Abu Reida family submittted pictures and their testimonies to the Palestinian Authority, who in turn said they would communicate with the Israeli district coordination office.

“I don’t believe they will react. But I still have to do everything that is possible to try to save my land,” said Fathalla.

The Israeli military forces, claiming they were coming to arrest one of the settlers, arrived to Qusra around 1 pm on the same day.

“There were 200 soldiers! Why would they send so many soldiers to arrest one man?, said Fathalla.

Soldiers cracked down on the village, showering it with tear gas at the southern outskirts of the village. Women, men, and children reportedly protested this second invasion by Israelis.

Qusra inhabitants felt their village has become a scene of increasing settler violence over last four months. Settlers activity typically occurs every Friday during the congregational prayer time for Muslims.

The last attack took place on September 5th, when settlers from an outpost of the illegal settlement Migron torched a mosque. Just few days earlier, on August 28th, settlers uprooted 100 hundred olive trees. The entire village came to stop them, yet the army arrived soon after, ordering people to disperse. As Jamal Adli Hassan was walking away, an Israeli officer shot him with live ammunition in his leg.

The surge in violence coming from the illegal settlements in the West Bank last week might be connected to arming and training settlers by the Israeli miliatary in anticipation of Palestinian protests against lack of recognition of their basic right to self-determination as the Palestinian Authority approach the UN for their bid as the 194th country in the world.