Visit to Huwwara and Einabus - allegations of settler harassment and damage to life and property
MAIN POINTS. Yzhar and Itamar settlers’ violent trespassing into Huwarra has become a daily event, including the destruction of car tires, the desecration of a tomb in a cemetery, the theft of plant boxes from a home, and murder in broad daylight. In Einabus thirty masked settlers threw heavy stones, wounding their two unarmed victims: shepherds on their own pasture land. The Yzhar guard and IDF soldiers observed from a hill this violent behaviour, becoming silent supporters, and one may say collaborators. These acts constitute violations of several basic human rights, i.e. to work, and the right to life.
HUWARRA. We met A., whom we have met several times; he speaks some Hebrew, and is in charge of the municipality’s public relations. This time, the Mayor was present, and he also talked with us through Mustafa.
ELECTRICITY. No problems, except for two or three neighbourhoods, where electricity supply is weak. The Palestinian supplier has failed to improve their infrastructure; but as A. explains, the supplier is dependent on the Israeli Company, which is therefore the responsible entity.
WATER. No problem, the water pressure is the same as the settlers’—they are on the same grid.
THE APARTHEID ROAD PROJECT. Though we heard about this about a year ago (see our report 23.05.18 Huwarra, Einabus), work hasn’t begun yet, but it rightly worries many Palestinians. Huwarra will be directly affected by a planned stretch of 4 Kms. According to the government plan, this stretch of the road and its marginal areas will be built on 400 dunams of Huwarra farm lands; but the amount is actually three times larger. A local engineer calculates that this road for settlers’ and the IDF’s exclusive use will rob the town of about 1,206 dunams.
CLOSURE by the ARMY. Last Thursday, soldiers came to town and ordered the closing of all the shops on Duwari Dachlye Square, from 11 am till Friday morning. Here are located many cafes, schawarma places and businesses. The soldiers claimed that this was to punish residents’ stone throwing, but A. says no one threw stones.
SETTLERS’ violence: Yzhar and Itamar settlers have been coming down from the hills to neighbouring Huwarra for quite some time. These uninvited visits have increased in violence, and frequency: they are now an almost daily occurrence; the targets, and place of entry have also changed.
(1) They used to enter only the edges of town, uprooting and destroying olive trees.
(2) Last Thursday they actually entered the town center, the cemetery, to desecrate a tomb of the dead, drawing a magen David on a tomb. Next day, Friday morning, people woke up to find this strange desecration.
(3) A new target: they stole some 10 plant boxes from a home.
(4) Every month or two, they attack cars. The Council’s secretary showed us a photo of her car, whose 4 tires the settlers punctured: a total and expensive loss. They also left a senseless grafitti on the wall of her house: "שלטון קלוקל מתי תילחם באויב".
(5) Ten days ago, eight Yzhar settlers came in a Jeep Subaru to central Square Dachlye, in Huwarra, then halted in the middle of the street. They thus stopped all traffic, and menaced passersby. They do this once every 5-10 days.
(6) Worst of all, a month ago a settler wilfully murdered a young man. The 21 year-old victim, had traveled from Salfit in a neighbour’s car, and was standing in the square awaiting a vehicle which was to take him to work in Jamma’in. A settler came by and without further ado shot him!
On this second day of Ramadan, the majdeles and the shops in Einabus were closed. But at Micky Fisher’s request, we visited in their comfortable home a family, who had appealed to her for help, as victims of Ytzhar violence. Earlier, Mustafa had asked to meet them, perhaps inside our mini bus. But they invited and directed us to their home, where they welcomed us: a 29-year old young man, who has a University degree in graphic design, and an older man, his uncle. The older brother joined us later. We gave them our phone numbers. The younger brother told us in Hebrew about the attack, the latest in a series. He promised to send me photos, but so far they have not arrived.
Last Saturday, May the 4th, thirty Yzhar settlers came down the hill and using slings, threw big stones at the two brothers wounding them. The brothers were pasturing their sheep near their home. The younger 29-year old brother explained that the settlers, who were masked, appeared to be strong men and were certainly not youngsters. The younger brother, was wounded around his mouth, while his older brother was seriously wounded at the back of his head. He was taken to the Emergency department of Huwarra Hospital, where he was operated, receiving three stitches, and hospitalized for 3 days. He is not well yet, sleeping in the mornings, and in a controlled way, told us he feels very angry. His younger brother suffers from insomnia, and, understandably is now more anxious than ever about the uncertain future.
On Saturday, friends alerted them at home, telling them that 30 Yzhar settlers were coming to their house. So the courageous brothers went out.
But this was not the first time settlers had come. Their violent incursions started three years ago, when our host decided to buy sheep, and built a pen to house them. Though they do not have a dairy, raising sheep adds to their income as farmers, and their father’s graphic design business in Nablus and Ramallah. For several months, settlers came every two days and at first threw stones at them from afar, using slings. And, our host admitted— of course they threw stones back. Then this violence escalated. Once the intruders broke the window in the pen housing the sheep. Two months ago, the settlers’ stones struck and wounded our host’s face around his mouth. Eight months ago, 20 settlers came in the morning and killed 15 of their sheep.
It is worth noting that the latest attack took place on May 4, a Saturday. The thirty “religious” settlers were dressed festively in white in honour of shabbat, but they were also masked. The holy day—on which all work is strictly forbidden—did not deter them from invading, trespassing a private pasture and engaging in violent, dangerous stone throwing. Moreover, there were witnesses, indeed observers: the Yzhar guard and a group of Israeli soldiers passively watched these violent acts. Standing on the hill above the Einabus house, these armed Israelis watched the unequal fight between 30 masked strong settlers/intruders and 2 unarmed Palestinian shepherds. As our host pointed out, “they neither approached nor intervened in the violence.” But their silent presence does not indicate a neutral stand. They were at least condoning, if not supporting this criminal behaviour.
As State employees and armed observers, their responsibility is greater. They were not only silent supporters, but collaborators of the thirty settlers’ trespassing on private land, and then violently and cowardly attacking their two unarmed and outnumbered victims. As such, they too are responsible for this flagrant violation of the human right to work (pasturing one’s sheep on one’s own land); and the basic right to life.
Our host told us that, eight months ago after settlers killed their lambs, he complained to the Israeli DCO, District Coordination and Liaison Officer in Nablus. This officer wrote down their names and telephone number, and said he would take care of this murderous incident. Eight months have passed, and nothing has been done.
His friends advised them to sell the sheep, and so remove the “reason” for the violence. Understandably, they don’t want to give up their chosen work, and good source of income. We asked how they could protect their sheep and themselves from further attacks. Our host logically answered that the only way would be to build a wall around their home and lands.