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Continued Settler Appropriation of Community Garden in At-Tuwani

17 February 2024 | International Solidarity Movement | Masafer Yatta

Israeli occupation soldiers and settler army. @ISM

On February 14, for the second time in 3 days, a settler from an illegal outpost west of Ma’on settlement, entered At-Tuwani, in Masafer Yatta, to do illegal drilling and construction work in the Youth of Sumud garden. Five heavily armed and masked settlers in reservist clothing blocked Palestinians, who were with solidarity activists, from accessing their own land. A surveillance drone was also present (video).

Video of a surveillance drone. @ISM

The settler soldiers called for backup and were quickly joined by more masked settler soldiers and three active duty occupation soldiers, who further blocked access to the land, giving time for the settlers to complete their work.

When a member of Youth of Sumud asked the commanding soldier if he would make the settler leave his land, the officer answered: “No, and in fact you are the one disturbing the peace, so I will ask you to leave.” He then told him he could file a complaint with the police.

The soldier then showed a digital map of the area with a red circle over large parts of the Sumud garden and declared it a military zone for the next 30 days, which means Palestinians and solidarity activists cannot enter without facing arrest or violence.

A map showing the new closed military area ordered by the Israeli occupation forces, without a date. @ISM

Such digital maps are not reviewed by a judge and are not legal; this one did not even have a date. Israeli solidarity activists report they have seen them produced on the spot in the Jeep.

Finally the police came and, acknowledging the illegal digital map, demanded IDs from all Palestinians and solidarity activists present, and the settler soldiers together with the occupation army and police pushed Palestinians to the family home.

This is only one example of how Israeli occupation police, army, and settlers work together to commit illegal land grabs and settlement expansion, and to drive Palestinians from their lands and homes. There is a pattern of land grabbing in at-Tuwani and in Masafer Yatta, which has intensified since October: first the bulldozing of the garden, then the installing of Israeli flags and now these illegal construction works.

Yet the people of at-Tuwani and neighboring communities have been showing their steadfastness, as they resist daily oppression and colonization of their lands.

Activist from Youth of Sumud confronting the IOF. @ISM

Illegal settlers working on Palestinian land under the protection of settler army. @ISM

Israeli flag illegally installed in the Youth of Sumud garden, at-Tuwani. @ISM