Qarawat Bani Hassan: Arrests, Army Raids and Land Grab
International Women’s Peace Service (IWPS) visited Qarawat Bani Hassan village of Salfit region in the West Bank, on 21 September 2014 and discussed with the villagers current reports of four young men from the village arrested by Israeli forces, frequent night raids by the Israeli occupying army, as well as land grab and land pollution by the nearby Nefatim and Revava settlements.
The young villagers aged 20 to 22, were each arrested by the Israeli military in early morning hours last week and they are being held in Huwwara Interrogation and Detention Centre near Nablus.
They are facing stone throwing charges and are likely to appear in front of the Israeli Military Court in about three weeks’ time. Their families have not been allowed to visit them or speak to them since they were taken from their homes.
Arbitrary arrests and denial of prisoners’ rights is a routine practice of the Israeli military and our contacts told us about another worrying recent example from their village.
In February this year a 15 years old Qarawat boy was arrested and charged with four months in the infamous Megiddo prison in Israel and 2000 Israeli shekel (more than $500 ) fine for the alleged stone throwing.
Even though he is a minor, his parents were never allowed to see him except from across the courtroom. Since his arrest, the boy became ill and was transferred to hospital for an operation and even on this occasion he was unable to see his parents. His concerned family attempted to send him school textbooks but that was refused.
Qarawat Bani Hassan residents explained that when the Israeli soldiers make arrests they will usually take place at night, following an incursion when they patrol the village. Sometimes they take people away and sometimes they serve people with summons to visit Shabak, the Israeli Security Agency.
Shabak then intensely questions villagers about their family members, their work, their car color, about other people in the village and anything else they wish to know. The interrogation usually ends with an offer of co-operation with the Israeli Secret Service.
Harassment and arrests by the army is just a part of the issues residents of Qarawat have to deal with day in day out.
In February this year an additional 350 dunums (one dunum is 1000 square meters) of privately owned Qarawat land have been usurped by the settlement Netafim and fenced off. The rightful owners might be able to access the land stolen from them, which is covered in olive threes, only during the olive harvest and only if they are granted a special permit to enter the settlement.
Another nearby illegal settlement, Revava, discharges its sewage onto the Qarawat farmland.
Many villages suffer from the same problems inflicted on them by numerous illegal settlements occupying West Bank hilltops. In addition, many industrial areas attached to settlements allow their industrial and other waste to poison Palestinian land. This has become a health hazard causing sickness and disease amongst Palestinians thought the West Bank.
Qarawat has a population of around 4,500 and about 10,000 dunums of land of which 507 dunums is built-up area. Only about 10 percent of the land is in area B and under the civil administration of the Palestinian Authority and Israeli military control, while almost 90 percent is in area C, under complete Israeli control where Palestinians are not permitted to build.