Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Our Chair's Report from Palestine

Hi guys,

I am here in the village of Deir Istiya (about 30 minutes drive south-ish of Nablus) with the International Women´s Peace Service (IWPS) see our website http://iwps.info/ where we publish our reports.
    As you know the situation here is very bad and getting worse. People, mainly young men and children are being assassinated in the streets of towns and villages on an assumption that they are a threat to the Israeli settlers, or for protesting against the increasing oppression and violence both by the armed illegal settlers and the occupation army.
     For example near the village I am there is Huwwara village (just before Nablus) which is surrounded by some of the most fanatical settlements, such as Ytzhar, Bracha etc there are frequent clashes between the village youth throwing stones at the heavily armed Israeli soldiers and the settlers who do not hesitate to use their deadly wares. 
     There are many more examples like this, such as in Al Khalik/Hebron where settlers surpass in violence the other settlers and even the Israeli army and police or in Beit El, near Ofer prison, in the village of Kufr Qaddoum, where we are going to go shortly for a Friday protest. In all those places protesters are being shot at, wounded and some killed by live ammunition or steel coated rubber bullets fired (against Israeli army rules) at peoples heads and chests rather than at the lower parts of their bodies. 
     Thousands of people have been wounded, some very seriously and 46 were killed only in first 3 weeks of October. I dread to think what the death and injury toll is going to be today, as Friday is a main day form protests here.
     We go a lot with local farmers who pick olives near the illegal settlement. They experience attacks, but there are too many of them who need internationals and too few of us. 
     For example, we went with an elderly farmer whose land is near the illegal Revava settlement (about 1 km from our village) and a settler verbally abused the farmer and then threatened to kill him and the IWPS volunteers. See out report on IWPS website on this here http://iwps.info/2015/10/a-struggle-to-harvest/ This farmer had to park his car about 300 metres away from his olive trees on a big busy settler road (he is not allowed to use the road which is on his land, which would take him into his olive grove)  and when crossing a very busy settler road, we experienced threats by a settler diving by.
     You might have heard about Ytzhar settlers accompanied by the army, attacking a week ago Burin farmers and wounding 5 of them including an international from UK. They then burned a large olive field with the army standing and watching and prevented the Palestinian Fire Brigade to get in and stop the destruction.
     These stories are repeated in many other villages, time and again. We are told that those harvesting with permits from the army (e.g. inside what illegal settlers consider to be a settlement security zone) have been given very brief periods of time to harvest and that they need extra hands to finish the job even if there are no threats of violence. On 26th and 27th we are going to be picking with the villages of Urif inside Ytzhar settlement wire and the whole village was only given 2 days to finish the job while they need much more time than that.
     The most depressing thing that we do is we go to the houses which are threatened with demolition, because their owners are accused of attacks against the settlers or the army. We go there at night in case the army comes on that particular night with their horrible bulldozers.
     There are 4 such houses in Nablus and tonight we are likely to go to one of them. I cannot describe how it feels like to just be there and unable to do anything to stop it - with whole families waiting night after night for all they have to be covered in rubble and buried. Not to mention that those whose houses are under demolition orders have not even gone through the Israeli courts where their ´guilt´ has been established - and, even it was, collective punishment is totally unacceptable and illegal.

Regards to all from Palestine,