6th May 2017 | International Solidarity Movement, Ramallah Team | Deir Istiya, occupied Palestine
Yesterday, 5th May, for the second week in a row , a group of Palestinians gathered in the olive groves, just outside Deir Istiya, district of Salfit, for their Friday prayer.
Before the prayer even started, a group of Israeli soldiers denied them passage to an open space near Highway 5066, which connects Tel Aviv to the illegal settlement of Ariel, stating that the prayer would have to take place at least 300 meters away from the road. After harassement and threats from the soldiers, who temporarily restrained Riziq Abu Nasser, one of the leaders of the peaceful protest, another group of soliders was called to the spot, with the Israeli police lingering not far from there. Pictures and videos of the protesters were taken and the Friday prayer ended up taking place where the growing number of Israeli soldiers allowed. The crowd dispersed soon after the prayer was over, in a peaceful manner.
This is the second time the inhabitants of Deir Istiya try to peacefully demonstrate against the construction of the highway, that rendered inaccessible their farmlands on the other side of the road. Last year, 15 demonstrations took place in Deir Istiya, and they were heavily repressed and followed by night raids into the village.
After contacts between Israeli authorities, the Salfit Governorate and Deir Istiya municipality, along with the Israeli promise that a new agricultural road would be built, the population agreed to put a stop to the demonstrations. The new road would allow Deir Istiya’s farmers to regain acess not to their own lands – around 2000 dunums in the valley of Wadi Qana – but also to neigbouring villages. The construction of Highway 5066 has become a check-point for Deir Istiya inhabitants, forcing them to walk more than 2 km to access their lands without ensuring their own safety and preventing them to take their cattle, tractors or other machinery with them. Frequent attacks from settlers have also been reported, with no response.
The frequent harassment, both by Israeli Occupation Forces and settlers, as well as the inability to take care of their own lands and crops has led, according to Abu Nasser, to a growing dependency on imported agricultural products and to a serious population loss. Still his belief on peaceful resistance as the best mean to send a message to Israeli authorities remain unchallenged.