'Azzun, Tue 19.2.13, Morning
We went to Azzun this week as well, at the request of the municipal council members. Five people awaited us, including the council head and the manager (whom we’d met last week), a representative of B’Tselem whose job is field research and two young men who were there to recount what occurred.
The situation in Azzun has become even worse during the past week. The checkpoint at the entrance to the village has been closed because, it’s claimed, residents have been throwing stones at vehicles driving on Highway 55. The checkpoint is guarded by three jeeps; the village has been declared a “closed military area.” Residents had taken advantage of a gap in the trees near the checkpoint through which small private cars began going out of the village. The army, determined to prevent people from leaving, hurried to close the gap with five concrete barriers and stationed soldiers there to block infiltration. Car keys were confiscated from drivers who tried to sneak through and not returned until the following day. Now the only route in and out of the village is the road through Izbet Tabib. That road lengthens the trip to Nablus considerably. But that road is also blocked intermittently by Border Police jeeps. Trucks, mostly carrying building material, are prevented from entering the village, delaying construction projects. Students and people who work in Nablus, Tulkarem or Ramallah must pay much more for transportation than they would for normal bus and taxi service to their destination. This additional cost is very burdensome for the impoverished residents, as Sa’adi, the representative of B’Tselem, tells us – he has a son who’s a student.
The Palestinian police are stationed in the village to prevent harassment. But their authority is limited. They’re permitted to be present only within the village itself, and only during the day, and are forbidden to intervene on the residents’ behalf. So all they’re really doing is showing up.
The economic condition of the village is very poor. People are losing their land because they haven’t money to hire lawyers. (Yesh Din is unable to deal with all the cases, which is why the villages have hired an attorney, a settler from Kedumim who’s become rich; we referred to her in the previous report). Much of the residents’ meager income goes to pay fines which can be as high at NIS 1000 to release a child who’s been caught on the street, and NIS 5000 or more to release youths who were arrested. To this should be added hundreds of people blacklisted by the Shabak who aren’t allowed to work in Israel. The result – poverty.
We go to see the checkpoint and the nearby gap and meet three pleasant soldiers from the Kfir brigade who are guarding it. They say the village is being punished because of stone throwing. Did they themselves see stones thrown? No. But that’s what they heard. Do they know that settlers enter the village and attack residents? They haven’t heard about that. They say, “We’re instructed by the brigade not to harm the population. Maybe the Border Police are the guilty ones…”
We leave the village by the long route which, for a change, is open.