Sansana, South Hebron Hills, Wed 6.2.08, Afternoon
Sansana - Meitar Checkpoint
15:15 – workers begin to return and pass quickly.
We met a businessman returning from a visit to Soroka (Hospital) and he said that occasionally the checkpoint closes at 07:30 - 08:00 in the morning, after the workers have crossed into Israel.
South Hebron hills
Access to Route 317 from the area of Susiya is blocked.
At Zif Junction we met Nasser, activist in Taayush and Btselem who makes a living taking children to school, and he shared with us some of the troubles of area residents. Yesterday his house was burnt. He has an engineer’s confirmation that the fire was caused by excessive voltage, the fault of the electric company. Nevertheless, the company claims that it is not their fault.
There are 23 villages in the area, all suffering to one degree or another from the soldiers and settlers. In the upper area, the civilian manager does recognise the Palestinian ownership of the land but will not allow building or the digging of water wells. There is no building whatsoever in Susiya, so residents are forced to live in tents, even though that is also forbidden. Nasser says that this is how the manager (who suggests that they move to Yatta) is preventing the Palestinians from living on their land.
In the lower area the problem is different. The army contends that it is a "firing zone," which makes the army owner of the land. A military order confirming the fact has not been seen, and Nasser says that the State Prosecutor has declared uncertainty over the legal validity.
In Susiya there is no electricity. In summer the residents make do with solar energy, and in winter they are planning to build turbines, together with members of Taayush from Beersheba, who come to help.
The road from Susiya to Yatta has been blocked since 2000.
They own 5000 sheep, while the settlers only have 150. The Palestinians have no area on which to pasture their animals, while the settlers have a huge expanse.
The settlers took fore the use of their sheep thirteen wells in the area. When the Palestinians want water, they must first coordinate with the army. Even after the coordination the settlers come. Therefore they are compelled to buy water in Yatta and Kiriat Arba (!) A metric cube of water plus travel expense costs roughly 150 shekels.
In Carmel settlement the building is illegal, but it and Susiya have grown and erected a "Flag Vantage Post" – an extension which in a few years will become another settlement. Nasser says that at Annapolis Conference they said that by 2010 there will be no more settlements, but he thinks there will be.
He continues to tell sad stories: about a bright boy shot by the army (in the presence of settlers from Carmel) seven years ago (age 17) and suffered brain damage; about families whose homes were destroyed and flocks taken by the army; about two men attacked at one am by 15 masked settlers, one hit in the head with an axe, and the other cut in the hand by a knife – happened three years ago. A complaint was submitted to the police, and they still do not know what happened to the file.
Nasser says that when the harm is done by the settlers, the army does not help. To submit a complaint, he has to travel to the police station in Kiriat Arba, but the files always remain open. One file did reach the court, after a settler from Susiya, named Haim Levanon, was photographed trying to run Nasser over. Of all the attacks, that was the only one to come to court.
There is a court decision that, in the area of Susiya the Palestinians are allowed to plough their land. Nasser went with then to film, but when the settlers arrived (backed by investigators Salmon and Amitai from Kiriat Arba), he was arrested for "not showing respect to the police."
Nasser photographed for Taayush and Btselem. Once the police arrived and threatened to arrest anyone who did not move away within five minutes. While starting to back off, after half a minute, the policemen grabbed him. He was taken for detention in Etzion. The policeman wrote nothing of his statement, and only asaid that he was "talking nonsense." After five days, he paid 1500 shekels bail, and was released. Now he is considered "police blacklisted" and "Shabak blacklisted."
At Shayukh Junction a military jeep with two soldiers in it, and another two standing with weapons drawn on the road.
The soldiers are not checking, only "demonstrating presence". In order to leave Hebron and cross the road to Shayukh, women with small (and cute) children have to bypass the boulder block through a narrow passage.
Sheep crossing – no army.
Dura al-Fawar – open.[L]