A visit to Awarta and Burin 17.03.11 morning
A visit to Awarta and Burin following the murder at Itamar 17 March 2011
Translation: Suzanne O.
Summary: We met with our friend M., at Borin to hear from him what happened in the village as a result of the settlers' rioting following the murder, and we met with people from Awarta Council. We heard their evidence and observed the establishment of a new settlement beneath Itamar on Awarta land. Please see the detailed report from Alia S of 17 March (this details the complaints of the residents of the village).
At the Burin/Yitzhar junction there is a snap roadblock in the direction of Yitzhar. Military police also stop random drivers on their way to Huwwara. Apart from this we did not observe any military presence.
Burinis located beneath Bracha and Yitzhar
At the Burin Junction our friend M., waits for us. He shows us the houses which were damaged on Saturday by the settlers who came down and surrounded houses, throwing stones at them. (The houses are on the eastern side at the entrance to the village.) According to him they also tried, unsuccessfully, to "kidnap two children". The residents of Burin shut themselves in their homes until the threat passed. During our visit near his house a shepherd rang to say he was frightened that settlers were coming down to the village now. M., scanned the slopes beneath Bracha and calmed him down saying that no one could be seen in the area.
We did not stay long at Burin because M., was waiting for a team from 'Yesh Din' to take him to Awarta, to the Council.
Awarta, in the shadow of a military area, has been closed for 5 days, searches and raids by settlers
Yesterday, the curfew was lifted that had closed Awarta since Saturday and now the Council has opened for the first time. We followed the narrow roads of Awarta to the Council where the Mayor, Kais Awad, Majdi the Treasurer and other village people were waiting. Present were Azmi, Yehudit A., and Ruth K. from 'Yesh Din', there were also representatives from 'Doctors for Human Rights' Salach Yechia and Samiach Jebran, leaders from the Authority and a team of reporters.
It was like a press conference when Kais Awad emotionally revealed the events in Awarta and Azmi translated for us.
The following is a direct quote: Kais Awad welcomed us saying that our presence gives them support.
There are 6000 inhabitants in Awarta. 12000 dunams have been stolen by the Itamar settlers.
Saturday 12 March at 5:30
Military vehicles entered the village and declared a curfew. The four entrances to the village were closed. They announced that the village is under command in a closed military area. A large military force entered the village (some 2000 soldiers and maybe more) went from house to house in groups of 15 – 17 soldiers, among them an Arabic speaking person from the Shabak and 2 dog handlers.
In each house men were separated from women and children. Men aged from 15 – 55 were stood against walls, handcuffed and searched; they were stripped and searched bodily for signs of a struggle connected to the incident. They were asked there whereabouts at the time of the murder.
In the houses rooms were rummaged, contents broken and stolen. The dogs sniffed and salivated everywhere and contaminated the houses (see the detailed report from Alia S., on 17 March 2011).
Sunday at 9:30 a.m.
It was announced that all males from 15 – 40 were to be rounded up and taken by the army to the girls' secondary school. There they were finger printed and samples of saliva taken (DNA). 55 men were arrested and taken away. No one knows where they are.
Monday, 14 March
The military carried out a search of every public institution in Awarta: in the surgery among the medication, in the mosques, in the Council. They broke doors and lintels to break into any locked rooms. They broke shelves in filing cabinets. NIS500 was stolen from the desk of the mayor. They insisted that the mayor open the safe which he did on condition that it was in the presence of the Israeli and Palestinian DCO.
We tour around to see the damage to the new doors belonging to the Council, to the shelves of the filing cabinets. Yael takes photos (sent by mail yesterday).
Kais Awad began to receive telephone calls from the eastern neighbourhood near to Itamar that settlers are coming down from Itamar and throwing stones in the presence of the army. One of the residents, a teacher by the name of Iad Mo'od, was wounded and windows were smashed.
In the present situation neither the army nor the police have arrested them, the inhabitants are undefended.
The inhabitants were filled with anger, they reached the limits of their fear and went out to defend their homes and started to throw stones too. Only then did the army intervene to deal with the settlers and send them back to the settlement.
Seizure of lands
That night the settlers moved out of the fenced area of Itamar, to the slope of the hill called 'Chaled Silikon' flattened an area of 15 dunams with bulldozers to establish a new settlement, they uprooted 120 olive trees belonging to Muhammed Pars Awad, a resident of Awarta.
As Azmi says, this is the greatest damage: seizure of private land.
At present bulldozers are laying a road connecting it to Itamar, outside the settlement, leading to the new settlement.
At the same time they are laying a new road, from another Itamar settlement, towards the road to Alon Moreh.
Thus hundreds of dunams belonging to the residents of Awarta are lost and this is the greatest fear of the inhabitants of the whole area.
The inhabitants' complaints
Inhabitants come to the Council to complain of damages. One man reports the theft of NIS 5000. Two handwritten lists are compiled: the list of the 55 detained men and a list of 15 families complaining of damage to their homes.
However, it is only now that the complaints are coming into the Council.
A view of the area under contention
We go to the upper part of the village to the reservoir accompanied by M. and G. – a local farmer, to observe the new settlement. Two caravans have already been set up on the stolen land. Two large bulldozers are noisily gnawing away at the new route – a connecting road for the new settlement. It is about 500 metres from Awarta as the crow flies.
A telephone update from Saturday 19 March 2011
The Council reported that 12 of those arrested had returned. From the area G. reports that 4 buildings have now been set up on the new settlement. There are settlers all around (the settlement) and tractors are at work and the army is guarding them.