Yesterday, April 20, the new Yanoun team of EAPPI Group 48 visited three communities near Nablus that are experiencing ongoing attacks from illegal Israeli settlements known as among the most violent in the West Bank. These settlements are Yizhar, Bracha and Itamar. The Palestinian communities affected are Burin, Madama, and Qusra. We are told that other communities are also under attack.
We visited a family near Burin are have been isolated from that community by an Israeli. Settlers from Yizhar continually attack the family, damage their olive trees, and try to invade their house. At one point, a settler tried to abduct one of the Palestinian children, and only released him when the father appeared. The family is concerned that the presence of internationals has increased the frequency of settler attacks. The military have restricted the grazing of the family’s sheep to only 50 metres up the hill from their home, reducing their use of property by over 40 %.
We next visited the head of the Madama Municipal Council and one of the councillors. They noted that settlers continue to set fire and uproot trees and damage crops. The military have blocked their access to a spring that had been a source of water for the community and to a major quarry that was a source of employment and income for many in the community. They also spoke about a 56 year old Palestinian man beaten by 10 settlers. He is still recovering from this injuries.
We then met with the mayor of Qusra, 6 km from Nablus. Agriculture is the mainstay of the community economy. Settlers from three other Israeli settlements have been harassing Palestinian farmers, with more frequent attacks since 2010. He provided photographs and news clippings of a number of incidents, including:
– from October 28, 2010 to February 23, 2013, settlers uprooted or burned 2,400 olive trees;
– on September 23, 2011, the military providing protection for a settler attack shot a 60 year old man and injured 67 others injured with live, plastic and rubber coated bullets;
– on February 23, 2013, the military shot a young man who had to be taken to Israel for surgery and hospitalized for 25 days.
In summary, in the past three years, 400 Palestinians trying to defend their lands and homes from settler attacks and confiscation have been injured. The mayor stated that his people will defend their rights, their trees, their families and that they respect the 2004 Oslo Peace Accord. He asks that we Ecumenical Accompaniers tell these stories to the world so that people everywhere learn what is really happening in the occupied Palestinian territories.
The sense that I have is that Palestinians, like people everywhere, just want to live in peace, raise families to be free from oppression.
We in Canada take so much for granted.
How would you respond if a country’s military were to invade, remove you from your home, demolish your communities, destroy your livelihood, restrict your movement, attack your families, put your children in military detention centres and prisons without due process of law?
There are no easy answers, no simple solutions. But we must inform ourselves and start asking our elected officials why they are not taking actions under international law to bring an end to this tragedy.
Posted from Yanoun, a tiny village in the Nablus Governate in the northern part of the West Bank in the occupied Palestinian territories.