'Awarta, Huwwara, Za'tara (Tapuah), Sun 20.3.11, Morning
We planned to go to the Jordan Valley, but yesterday evening we received an email asking us to go to Awarta which, according to reports, got shameful “special treatment” from the army as they searched for those who murdered the people in Itamar.
11:00 We came to Awarta and went to the grocery at the entrance to the village, where we spoke to the owner and a number of upset residents who told us that settlers wait for yellow taxis leaving the village (on their way to Huwwara) to throw rocks at them.
We drove into the village and spoke with residents we met along the way. We stopped for a longer time near one of the shops and spoke with more and more residents who came to talk with us. Children also gathered, of course, among them schoolchildren with painted faces. It turns out that they had a “free day” in school – the parents laughed, saying, “Like your Purim”…
The town is quiet today, no soldiers visible, but all the residents appear pretty upset after five days of curfew, rude and violent searches, soldiers remaining in their homes (“they put us all in one room”) and many residents arrested, only a few of whom had returned to the village.
Here’s a summary of the feelings we heard from everyone we spoke to: All of them strongly condemned the murders in Itamar. Not one sought to excuse them, or moderate their abhorrence of the murders. They stressed that to murder children is an anti-Muslim act, “against our religion,” “We don’t believe a Muslim could do such a terrible thing”…”Even though they took our lands, that’s a terrible murder.” At the same time, they feel the army decided the murderer came from Awarta; “they’ll stop at nothing to accuse us all”… They’re bitter about the violent searches, during which everything within reach was broken. A shop owner said that in addition to dumping everything from his shelves, they also stole NIS 1500 from the shop. But they’re afraid to complain, afraid of retaliation from the authorities (the army, the GSS): all of them want permits to work in Israel, and won’t risk losing an opportunity to get one by giving evidence or filing a complaint with the police. Two teachers who came and talked to us gave us photos from their cellphones (I’ll try to upload them tomorrow to the computer and then to the internet), and one promised to send me a short video clip documenting the property damage. The Palestinians also pointed out the letter “shin” sprayed on doors – the army’s sign that they’re to be searched.
When we came to the municipality building we met our colleagues from “Yesh Din.” The municipality is in a new building, and the violent entry was visible (the broken lock and door frame).
12:50 We arrived at Huwwara and saw seven soldiers randomly inspecting vehicles at the entrance to Nablus. When we showed up one soldier began running after us and announced, A. that we’re not permitted to enter or be present here (later, after we’d been standing and observing, he tried to see our ID’s – we refused), and B. that we should be ashamed of ourselves!... We parked and stood watching, facing considerable hostility from the soldiers. The checkpoint commander, who wanted to talk to us, “pulled up short” by his soldiers, who even warned him that we might be recording what he says…
13:20 We left to go home. A Border Police jeep at the Yitzhar junction, is inspecting cars going toward Yitzhar.
No soldiers at the Za’tara (Tapuach) junction; traffic flows freely.