'Azzun 'Atma, Huwwara, Sat 17.5.08, Afternoon

Observers: 
Tamar G, Aya K, Vivi T
17/05/2008
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Afternoon

Azzun Atma

– to refresh the mind, Azzun Atma is trapped
inside the separation fence, between the settlements of Oranit, Elkana
and Shaarei Tikva – the settlement which, in order to "whitewash" it
and keep it within Israel proper, the village of Azzun was encircled by
the fence: a prison within a prison, a more correct term than "Seam
Zone enclave." To the north of it a checkpoint manned by the army, one
of the harsh "jewels in the crown." To the south of the village, an
obstacle of boulders close to Route 5, an apartheid road the use of
which is denied the Palestinians. Close to the obstacle on the side of
the village wait cars and drivers hoping to make a living from some
journey within the village or leaving the obstacle. The road is
seemingly open in the direction of Israel, but few dare take the risk
of encountering the ever present army patrols preying on Palestinians
without Israeli entry permits. The northern checkpoint is in the fence
that separates the village from close neighborliness with the villages
of Beit Amin and Sanniriya which traditionally were linked by work and
family relations. Only residents of Azzun or holders of special permits
may enter the village.

We arrived at the checkpoint on the north side with one of the
transport drivers, and stood a few score metres from the soldiers.
Azzun has less than two thousand inhabitants, and the checkpoint has
everything needed to prevent their entry or exit from home in the
village: many soldiers, a watchtower, cameras, turnstiles and a hut
housing a metal detector through which all must pass, including
pregnant women, toddlers and, in the ways of the Occupation, the most
marked targets are the young men. The sight of the check of the men is
a hard one. Even though the last army unit, known for its violence, has
been replaced – the checks that we saw do not proclaim a more human
checkpoint. The soldier, male or female, points a gun directly at the
man till he has finished raising his shirt and showing a bare belly and
back – and this before proffering ID cards, still with the rifle
pointed and before entering the metal detector hut.
With the same driver, we toured inside the village, which can be
likened to a web of closed off roads, requiring at the end of each a
turn back. Some of the hothouses and groves are working, but many of
the fruit trees are dying. People do not have the strength, and in any
case some of the lands belong to Beit Amin residents who can enter only
through the mechanism of agricultural permits.
A year ago, Gideon Levy (Haaretz) wrote about 21 year old
Aadel Omar who died in Qalqiliya Hospital after being injured in an
accident. He was delayed two hours at a closed checkpoint despite the
agonised and desperate cries of his friends. In the article, Gideon
Levy wrote that after the incident agreement was reached to open the
checkpoint all hours of the day, but he was told that it closes at ten
pm, and remains shut till morning, and no one dares be late by even
five minutes after ten pm. From the people with whom we talked, they
clearly hunger after a listening ear, and our empathy and solidarity in
arriving there was most important. On March 1, Dafna reported that it
is possible to park close to the southern obstacle, after a short drive
from Kfar Qassem, and to reach the northern military checkpoint from
inside the village.

Rampage of Yizhar Settlers in Asira Qibilia

While on route, we received a message that settlers from Yizhar
were burning field of wheat in Asira Qibilia. We did not reach the
village because of the potholed track, unsuitable for our car but, on
the way, we met passengers of a Palestinian Transit taxi, and one of
them told us that his son had put the fire out. The fire was perfectly
timed for the settlers, for this was just before the wheat harvest and
the milling of flour. A part of the "land grab" tactic... The following
is the testimony of a fireman from nearby Burin Fire Station about an
arson attack on wheat fields on Saturday two weeks ago, May 3. We
recorded our talk with him. A part of the testimony we heard in real
time at Huwwara Checkpoint, from people who had heard by phone from
their relatives in Asira.

The Fireman's Testimony

Saturday two weeks ago we got a report that settlers from Yizhar
had attacked Asira, burnt wheat and other things. We went to put the
fire out, and we had only just arrived when settlers and the army came
and shot at the fire engine.
There were perhaps three hundred people from Asira come to help.
There were five or six, maybe ten, dunams (two and a half acres) of
wheat and barley. We wanted to start extinguishing the flames, and were
caught (us, the firefighters) between the army and settlers on the one
side, and the people of Asira on the other. The latter throwing stones,
the former shooting. That's what happened...
We went on firefighting. They shot. And we lay on the ground, not
knowing what to do. The army shot at us, and then took from us the
beaters and gave them to the settlers. The beater is what we use when
the fire engine can't get to the fire and we have to work by hand. It
is made of rubber with a wooden handle, and it prevents air getting to
the flames.
And they took it from us...
In front of us, they beat people, trampled them. The army and the
settlers. The settlers helped by the army. And the army did not drive
the settlers away, quite the contrary. Even the guards on the
settlements were shooting at us.
And then someone phoned the (Palestinian) police and the DCO, and
for ambulances – there were three wounded. They beat these three, and
literally smashed them. When the ambulance arrived, the soldiers sent
it back, wouldn't let it take the injured. Afterwards the DCO talked to
them (the soldiers) till they let the ambulance come and collect the
three injured.
And then they returned our beater.
Testimony of the Transit passengers today, 17.5.08.
The settlers descended to Asira, burnt a field, and threw gas and stun grenades. The son of the driver put the fire out.

Huwwara Checkpoint

around 17:00 – few people at the
checkpoint wanting to cross, and a parking lot full of taxis. A second
lieutenant tried to wreck Tamar's camerainfo-icon, and called a policeman. Both
eventually retreated when they were told that we would complain about
assault and an attempt to break the camera.[L]