10th of February, 2017 | International Solidarity Movement, al-Khalil team | South Hebron Hills, Occupied Palestine
On Saturday, February 4th, a group of villagers from At Tuwani, South Hebron Hills, held a non-violent demonstration against the settler violence and illegal settlement expansion that affects their village. At 10:00, a demonstration consisting of about 15 Palestinian villagers, supported by international and Israeli activists, left the village of At Tuwani to march through the lands stolen by the illegal settlers’ out-post, Havat Ma’on. This is an area where local Palestinian children experience violence and threats from settlers while going about their daily lives. The demonstration was mostly women and children from the local village, protesting against the violence they experience and the continued expansion of the settlement.
The demonstrators walked through the land, which is constantly threatened by the ever-expanding settlements, sang and planted olive trees. While this was happening, a settler from the illegal out-posts came down, openly wearing a gun, started to harass the demonstrators, began filming the protest and called for the Israeli army and police.
Shortly after, a large group of Israeli forces arrived and the demonstration moved to another piece of land. The demonstrators continued singing songs and planting more olive trees. At this time, around 8 Israeli army vehicles and two Israeli police vehicles drove around the demonstration. The soldiers and police stood talking to the settlers before they came to the demonstration and declared the area a “closed military zone”. They used this excuse to disperse protesters while the non-military settlers were allowed to remain where they were. The demonstrators non-violently resisted the order. The Israeli forces threatened a Palestinian man with arrest, only releasing him when the demonstrators agreed to move.
While this was going on, a group of about 20 settlers from the illegal out-posts invaded the local Palestinian village At Tuwani. They were met with strong nonviolent resistance from the village as some of the people from the demonstration rushed back to help the village. The Israeli army and police came to protect the settlers. It was only through the persistence and determination of the demonstrators and villagers that the settlers finally left.
At Tuwani is a village in the South Hebron Hills, which has experienced many problems from the extremist illegal settlements and out-posts built on and around their land. Children of the village are faced with violence and intimidation by settlers and the Israeli army while walking to school. Shepherds and anyone trying to access the village are met with similar intimidation and violence. For many years, this village has used non-violent resistance to defend their land and oppose the occupation.