'Azzun, Eliyahu Crossing, Habla, Ras a-Tira, Tue 23.7.13, Afternoon
Translator: Charles K.
A long talk with Hassan S., from the Azzun municipality, who asked for help.
We met with Hisham to talk about the lands and gates of Wadi Rasha, Dab’a and Ras a-Tira, which had been in the Alfey Menashe enclave and were annexed to the West Bank following an appeal to the Supreme Court.
Both told us that there had been a halt to issuing permits and entry authorizations to Israel.
13:45 Habla checkpoint
One large gate is wide open for vehicles, some soldiers standing in the middle, ready to close the gates. A few people cross in each direction. A Palestinian car going toward Habla is carefully inspected. A vehicle pulling a trailer drives to the middle of the crossing, the driver sure he will be able to go through, but he returns in reverse, explaining to us, calmly, that he needs a special permit to cross here.
13:57 The gates begin closing. We leave. On our way to the Eliyahu checkpoint we go through Arab a-Ramadan, the Bedouin village, the only locality in the Alfey Menashe enclave that wasn’t annexed to the West Bank because it is located between Highway 55 and Alfey Menashe.
14:20 Eliyahu checkpoint
We stopped in the parking lot, were again amazed by what’s being done there. There are now statues of animals in addition to the mosaics in the style of Gaudi. The guard who immediately approached us didn’t prevent us from crossing the road to the other side of the checkpoint, toward the bus stop. No cars were detained. Light traffic.
We had arranged to meet Hassan, from the municipality, in the store because the municipal offices close at 13:00 during Ramadan. Hassan gave us information about the arrest of a number of youths who were transferred to Megiddo prison, and also about some incidents during the past two months involving the settlers and the army.
In one of them they heard on the local radio station that settlers from Ma’aleh Shomron were planning to enter Azzun. The next day settlers flew a large Israeli flag and the following day there was a large slogan on the wall, in Arabic: “We’ll conquer the city.” Signed – Shomron Women. The Palestinians held a meeting in town and sent people as lookouts to prevent entry to settlers who came from the east and who were protected by the army.
On June 18, settlers tried to enter the village but the Palestinians gathered in the open along with EAPPI volunteers and soldiers. The settlers didn’t get out of their buses; they returned whence they came. But 20 youths were injured in the incident.
He has a very big request that he repeats each time we meet, but this time he actually wants help. They want to appeal to the Supreme Court to open the town’s eastern gate and the road to Azzun which, prior to 1994, was the main east-west route from Highway 60 to Qalqilya and north to Tulkarm. The town and the residents have no interest in demonstrations and disturbances. They hope to achieve what they want by judicial means. We said we’d consult with other organizations to see what can be done.
Before we left, Hassan told us that a few days ago permits stopped being issued to visit relatives, as had been usual during Ramadan.
After being hosted at Zaharan’s home, which we couldn’t refuse, we continued to Ras a-Tira, south of Alfey Menashe, on the winding road through Thulth, Khirbet al-Ashkar, Abu Salman and Ras Atiya.
16:30 Ras a-Tira
Hisham welcomed us to his lovely home. His wife and children had prepared goodies and spoiled us throughout our visit. H. spoke on behalf of the three villages – Wadi Rasha, Dab’a and Ras a-Tira. The new fence built as a result of the Supreme Court decision robbed them again of much land and required uprooting trees all along its length – a strip 100 meters wide and about 4.5 kilometers long. 5000 dunums also remained beyond the fence, 2500 of which belong to Ras a-Tira. Some residents were severely harmed because most of their land remained outside, while others were harmed less. In the past the villagers had seasonal crops and fruit trees, but since they couldn’t access their lands only olive trees remained, which also require attention from time to time. They can’t cultivate their land if the gates are opened for only two weeks during the olive harvest. They want the two gates leading to their land, which are 5 kilometers apart – one south of Alfey Menashe and the second farther west, next to Wadi Rasha – to open daily so they can reach their lands. It’s important to him to emphasize that both gates must be opened because lands near one are inaccessible from the other.
He also told us that the issuance of entry permits to Israel had stopped in recent days, there are no permits for family visits nor are permits being renewed for the agricultural gates.
18:00 We left after a long talk about the situation.