House Report No. 31
‘Asira Al-Qibliyah Clean-Up Day
23. April 2013
On the 23 of April two from the house team of IWPS and four from ISM went to Asira for a work day to clean empty house that is to become a community center. 10 locals directed the worked and labored alongside internationals. The courtyard was covered a foot deep in mud, grass and trash. After the debris was removed, the courtyard was cleaned with water. The house consists of three rooms; a living room, kitchen and a small bathroom. The living rooms walls were scrubbed and cleaned for much of the paint and plaster was falling off due to water damage. This room will be used in the future as a classroom for the women and children of Asira.
The kitchen, which will be used to make soaps, was covered in ash due to fire two years ago. The team scrubbed it with brushes and water, making a lot of progress but it still needs a lot of work. The bathroom and toilet facilities were superficially cleaned because the plumbing will not work until a new tank in procured. The new tank costs 700 shekels and the women’s center is currently looking for a funding.
The day was successful but the center still needs more work and the house team will hopefully spend more time with the strong people of Asira.
The town Asira Al-Qibilya is located near Nablus city. A small town of 2500 people that has had a strong womens group working inside the town for a while. In february 2013 the Palestinian authority accepted a founding of a new women’s center in the town. The women have scheduled a program of embroidery, soap making, women’s health classes and more. One of the women in the group donated her old house to be a center but the house was in bad shape and needed a lot of cleaning.
Written by: Silja
Edited by: Alex
HOUSE REPORT No. 30
Demonstration in Kafr Qaddum
19th April 2013
Every Friday the village of Kufr Qaddum holds protests against the occupation. Like many villages, it has suffered greatly from army invasions. One of the main reasons for the protest is the closure of the main road leading out of the village. The road closure makes it much more difficult, expensive and time-consuming for villagers to travel. The army has now closed the road for all Palestinians so the road is mainly for the settlers living in Qedumim settlement next to Kufr Qaddum.
Approximately fifty men and young boys gathered at 12:30 at the main road of the village. Three from the IWPS house team and around 10 other internationals and media joined the pumped-up group of men. We marched to the end of the village where the road was closed but the army met up with us before we reached the last house of the village.
The villagers had made several road blocks with stones so the army vehicles could not enter the town. The army had brought a bulldozer that they used to push many of the roadblocks away.
The first twenty minutes before the start of the official demonstration were a bit chaotic. A few teargas containers were shot but the protestors seemed to be coming and going. The bulldozer retreated after a while for some reason and the army kept its distance. Most of the men returned to the village to pray and a few internationals joined them. After prayers, the majority of the protestors regrouped and marched back to the end of the village, peacefully chanting and shouting.
The army started shooting teargas at the people and it seemed to be very strong that day. They had a machine so they could shoot many at a time. People were badly affected by the tear gas and some had to be carried away from the action to recover. Others who breathed tear-gas were reduced to sitting on the side of the road, sheltering in front of houses or walls, where it took them at least five minutes to recover. After an hour some of the boys succeeded in starting a fire with old tires so the black thick smoke went straight up to the soldiers on the hill.
When the demonstration had been going on for about an hour and a half, suddenly someone shouted that it was over. On our return to the village, one organizer told us that he believed the army wanted something that day – perhaps there were soldiers hiding in waiting for them if they had proceeded further out of the village.
Report written by: Silja
Edited by: Annette
HOUSE REPORT No 29
Prisoner’s Day in Ramallah
April 17, 2013
On the 17th of April each year Palestinians mark Prisoners’ Day. The day is held to honor the 4800 Palestinian prisoners currently held in Israeli prisons. According to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society, more than 215 children and 14 women are in jail. Since the start of the Israeli occupation in 1967, about 800,000 Palestinians have been detained at some point.
This day also marked the 4th anniversary of the death of Bassem Abu Rahma, who was murdered by the Israeli army in 2009. Bassem was killed when he was shot with a high- velocity teargas canister while demonstrating against the imprisonment of Palestinians, several of them without any charge or trial, as well as the expansion of settlements around his village of Bil’in.
On this day around 20 Palestinians, around 10 media reporters and around 10 internationals were meeting at a house in Ramallah, preparing for an action. The protesters all wore white T-shirts with the image of Bassem Abu Rahma. We drove to the separation barrier close to the Ofer prison, which is known for its practices of torture perpetrated against Palestinian inmates, and ran out of the cars with Palestinian flags and posters of current prisoners. They succeed in cutting about ten meters of the fence and dragging it away. The army showed up after about 10 minutes, unable to do anything because of the second fence between the protesters and themselves, but instead shot a sound bomb and a tear gas canister. The wind was blowing strongly in the soldiers’ direction so they had to run back. Some protesters continued cutting the fence, but shortly afterwards, all returned safely to Ramallah.
After the action, despite heavy rain, around 300 people gathered at a main square of Ramallah to protest against the Israeli prisons and the conditions under which prisoners are held, especially those who are under hunger strike.
￼Written by Bryndis and Sylvia.
Edited by Meg and Annette. April 20, 2013
HOUSE REPORT No. 28
Tree Planting in Turmus’ayya
April 14th, 2013
At noon, three members of the IWPS team arrived in Turmus’ayya where a sale of handicrafts, books, plants and food products was taking place in the Municipality building. We were joined by three members of ISM. An award ceremony for local sports teams was also taking place, after which about 70 members of the village, both male and female, went by car to an area of agricultural land outside of the village.
Approximately 20 were planted in a lower field. The group then moved up to a higher field, near to the illegal settlement of Boaz, and continued to plant. At this time, an Israeli army jeep approached, circled around the planting, and parked on the top of the hill where they watched our activities. Planting continued without incident, and the villagers returned to the village. The higher field had previously had 200 olive trees growing there, however these had been uprooted about one and a half years ago. The burnt stumps of some olive trees were visible in the field.
Between 5000 and 6000 people live in Turmus’ayya, a village which is unique for the high percentage of American citizens of Palestinian origin who reside part-time or full-time in the village. One resident explained to us that refugees from 1948 were offered economic incentives to give up their refugee card and accept citizenship in the US or Canada. We were told that approximately 60% of the villagers currently live abroad and 80% of the villagers have lived in the United States.
Their US citizenship gives the villagers little extra protection against the brutality of the occupation. One resident told us the story of his brother, who was out one day without his Palestinian ID card. He showed his American passport, which was thrown on the ground and stamped on, and he was then detained for three days. The village suffers the same sort of land confiscation, crop damage and harassment from settlers as is common in many Palestinian villagers. It is estimated that 40 000 dunams of land have been confiscated by the illegal settlements of Shilo and Boaz.
Report Written by Annette
Edited by Bryndis
HOUSE REPORT No. 27
Protest in Bil`in
April 5, 2013
On Friday, 5th of April, three IWPS volunteers attended the weekly demonstrations held by Bil’in villagers. There were around 13-15 internationals at the demonstration and around 30 locals. Most demonstrators were driven to the demonstration site, which is in front of the eight meter high concrete wall that cut through the village land. By the time we arrived, the IOF had already started to fire tear gas at the demonstrators. The demonstrators were scattered around in a field in front of the separation wall and tear gas was fired in three different locations.
About 40 settlers, mostly young boys, were standing on a hill in the settlement on the other side of the separation wall, cheering for the army.
The demonstration lasted for about one hour. By then, we were encouraged by a local to leave the area as we were told that the IOF were entering the land and it would be dangerous to stay. No injuries were reported.
Bil’in is a small village of 2000 people in Ramallah governorate, about five kilometers from the Green Line. The village started weekly demonstration protesting against the annexation of their land and separation wall in 2005.
Written by Bryndis
Edited by Annette and Meg
HOUSE REPORT No 26
Festival in Wadi Qana
March, 29, 2013
Wadi Qana is a beautiful valley in the Salfit area, belonging to the Deir Istiya village, in the West Bank. It‘s a very fertile valley with a lot of olive and citrus trees, which are under threat because the valley was designated a “Natural Reserve” by the Israeli Civil Administration. Since 1986 the administration ordered the farmers to uproot the olive trees, paradoxically reasoning this with the designation of a Natural Reserve. The farmers are not allowed to plant anything nor to live there. Another threat are the nine settlements surrounding the valley, all of which are illegal under international law. In the past the valley was inhabited by Palestinian farmers as well, though only four families still remain. The other Palestinians left because of harassment from the settlers, e.g. pollution from sewage waste pumped down from the settlements. (For more information see Wadi Qana reports)
The festival happened in context of Land Day (on Saturday 30th of March), fighting against settlement expansion and land occupation and in solidarity with the remaining farmers, supporting their right to live and plant on their own land.
On this sunny Friday afternoon we entered the valley, “welcomed” by the Israeli army, which has an outpost at the entrance and sometimes closes the valley for the Palestinians if there is a gathering of settlers. On our way into the valley we saw a lot of settler families, enjoying the sunny day and beautiful landscape. Besides Israeli army, there were also three armed settlers, not far away from the Palestinian festival.
Finally arriving to the festival, there were a lot of people of every age, sitting under olive trees, making coffee and tea, barbecuing, chatting and laughing. Later on some men were singing, playing drums and the Oud, while other were dancing to it. Earlier in the morning there was also planting of olive and lemon trees and the cleaning of the natural spring. All in all it was a very joyful and peaceful event.
Written by Sylvia
Edited by Annette
HOUSE REPORT No 25
Land Day Demonstration in Burin
March 30, 2013
IWPS arrived in Burin at 1030 AM for a Land Day event. We gathered and were transported to the site where the event was to take place at 1130. Around 50 people including local people, municipality, media and internationals were present during the planting of 30 olive trees.
￼Arriving the field with olive trees
Two military jeeps, one armoured vehicle and two border police vehicles approached the edge of the irrigated field. The Israeli Police and Military filmed and photographed the participants planting the trees and placing placards about land day beneath them.
￼Black balloons with messages and flags
At 12:30 black balloons carrying messages about land day and the Palestinian flag were distributed to the participants who released them into the air with hopes of the nearby illegal settlement seeing their message.
The participants sang and chanted on route to the owner of the lands house for tea as the end of the event when the Israeli military announced that the area of the field and the house where now a closed military zone. IWPS checked the Israeli military order for the date and location. The event ended at 130 with no arrests.
￼Four legged participant
Written by Alex
Edited by Meg
HOUSE REPORT No. 24
Demonstration in Bruqin
March 29, 2013
The IWPS team went to Bruqin to attend a tree planting, prayer and demonstration organised by the village of Bruqin and supporters from neighboring villages. This was the second protest held on Waqf (local communal land trust) lands of the Salfit area, overlooking Barqan illegal industrial settlement, against land confiscation, its possible expansion, and the pollution of Palestinian agricultural land by sewage and industrial waste dumping. (see Human Rights Report Nº 444, March 3, 2013: www.iwps.info).
The action took place on an important weekend: commemorating Land Day. Today, there are a number of events planned in Salfit governorate, as are all over the West Bank.
￼Soldiers with tear gas canisters.
Two IWPSers arrived on the site for protest, next to Barqan industrial zone, and found quite a number of people gathering. About 30 soldiers were already in position, expecting us.
Negotiation with the soldiers.
After some negotiations, we were able to start planting the olive trees with the soldiers looking down on us in a close proximity. A number of trees were planted and watered; villagers brought water tank on wheels as well. Around 70 men and youths were present, carrying Palestinian flags and flags of some political parties. They also put posters of Rachel Corrie, Arafat Jaradat and Vittorio Arrigoni next to the newly planted trees. As soon as the prayer finished, the confrontation took place between the village youths throwing stones and the soldiers firing tear gas indiscriminately. As we run away across the field with the people to avoid being tear gassed and hit by the canisters, a car that was parked nearby picked us up and brought us to the village.
Prayer on the site
As we were leaving the village, we came across an army flying checkpoint and were denied exit. We ended up making a long detour, waiting for a few hours until we were able to find transportation to Wadi Qana, a valley in Deir Istiya with abundant water sources and rich farm land for Palestinians, where a festival was held. Israel threatens to declared Wadi Qana as a nature reserve so that Palestinian farmers would not be able to farm nor build structures in the valley thus prohibiting Palestinian farmer to continue to live and work ; the constant expansion of the surrounding illegal colonies is one of the continuous problems. The festival was held to commemorate Land Day, show support for the farmers and defend the area.
IWPS is currently accepting volunteers for 2013-2014. Please visit our website at http://iwps.info for more information on our organization and how you can be a part of it.
Written by Meg
Edited by Maria
HOUSE REPORT No. 20
Bike Race in Palestine!
March 14, 2013
IWPS was called to bear witness to a nonviolent bicycle ride from the town of Deir Ballout to Kafr ad Dik. Three IWPS team members arrived with three ISMers around 2:30pm, and were met by a local representative, who took us to the municipality. At the municipality, the mayor and some of his colleagues explained that there was to be a symbolic bike ride to demonstrate against the settlements and against the lack of freedom of movement Palestinians suffer from , due to the flying checkpoints and arbitrary delays posed by the Israeli army. The local representative who organized the event noted that he believed that the demonstrators would ride and/or walk to the entrance of the town, where there would be army vehicles waiting, restricting their exit. He predicted that a clash would ensue, and he simply requested that the team bear witness and give credibility to the events. The mayor explained that the demo was to be a nonviolent protest, and he stressed that Palestinian people have hopes to reclaim their land.
As it stood, the demonstration of about fifty young bike riders and eighty people on foot played out a little differently than predicted. When the group had gathered on the main road in Deir Ballout, they approached the entrance to the village, where one jeep and one armored vehicles with several soldiers stood on the road.
The Fatah delegate to the Salfit governorate negotiated with the army commander, and once they had finished, they motioned for the riders to go ahead. To everyone’s surprise, the army allowed everyone to pass, and the group proceeded to walk the distance along the highway from Deir Ballout to the Kfar ad Dik municipality. Along the way, three Israeli armored vehicles followed slowly the parade. When the group reached the roundabout separating Kfar ad Dik from illegal settlements, Ale Zahav and Pedu’el, there were four armored vehicles with soldiers standing beside them as well as private security guards, alert with their weapons. The demonstration continued peacefully to the municipality and disbanded abruptly without much of a culminating ceremony. The young men and boys who participated in the ride were visibly cheerful for their success in having accomplished their goal. For a change, it was an afternoon of joy for a Palestinian community.
Deir Ballout is a small Palestinian village in the Salfit district with approximately 1,700 residents. The town is one that has lost thousands of dunams of land as a result of both the construction of the apartheid wall and illegal Israeli settlements, limiting the use of town land used for planting olive trees and other profitable goods. It is worth noting that not a single local woman participated in this activity.
Written by Abby
Edited by Maria and Meg
HOUSE REPORT No. 19
Olive Tree Planting in Qusra
March 14, 2013
At 10:30am on March 14th, an olive tree planting took place in the southwest hills surrounding the village of Qusra (Nablus governorate), which has been under constant attack by the settlers from illegal settlements Eli and Shilo in the last couple of years and more. The attacks have included the uprooting of hundreds of olive trees, car burnings, animal killings, mosque and houses vandalizing, and several attacks, both fatal and otherwise, of villagers.
Upon arriving an hour early, the IWPS team visited the municipality, speaking with two members of the city council. In the office, the walls were lined with photos of locals who have been injured by attacks from settlers and the army. In an attempt to help us figure out where the planting was located, one councilman phoned another who spoke better English. When he arrived, he helped us speak with our local contact and told us a bit about the history of Qusra, and he pointed out the photos of a villager who was murdered last year in an attack.
A local resident took us in his vehicle to the place of the planting. Along the way we picked up two other men, one of whom was a teacher so dedicated that he had left his students unattended for an hour to help us plant trees. A spirited bunch, we headed to the site on the farm, where we helped pile thirty trees into the back of a truck. In the distance, we could see some structures from outposts of Shilo and Eli, as well as the lonely house of a shepherd who has been a frequent target of settler attacks. We could also see the settlement of Migdalin to the east, whom we were told the village has interacted peacefully with up to this point.
At first, the three IWPS team members surveyed the area and helped plant the trees. During this time, we learned that the regular settler violence had been at a minimum in the last two weeks following the shooting and severe injury of a young man by a settler, who is still recovering in the Hadassah hospital. The local man speculated that the calm might also have to do with the upcoming visit of US president Barak Obama. We also met a committed young activist and photographer from Qusra who is part of the team which maintains the website and Facebook page “Qusra.net”: http://qusra.net
Within the hour, though, six members of the International Solidarity Movement arrived to assist. We worked until two o’clock with hospitality and sustenance provided by Qusra residents . At this point, the group had almost completed the planting of one hundred trees and lacking the power tools to dig the necessary holes, decided to call it a day.
It is important to note that throughout the duration of the planting session, there were four Israeli soldiers looking on from a tent located on a hilltop nearby, from where settlers usually walk down the hill to attack the Palestinian farmers when they are working on their lands. However, they only approached the locals to warn them not to plant or go further up towards the settlement outposts.
Qusra is a Palestinian village approximately twenty-five minutes south of Nablus. It is known for the disproportionate amount of settler violence that occurs there, as it is surrounded by several illegal settlements and outposts. Olive tree planting is particularly important there because settlers will often participate in uprooting and destroying trees within their township. It is worth noting that not a single local woman participated in this activity.
Written by Abby
Edited by Maria and Meg
HOUSE REPORT No 18
Demonstrating the Trash Dumping in Qusin
March 6, 2013
At two o’clock on Wednesday, March 6, approximately sixty people gathered in the center of Qusin to march down to a local quarry, where settlers from Qadumim, an illegal Israeli settlement, have begun to dump their trash waste. Underneath this land, exists an important source of water for the residents of Qusin, and there are major concerns about water pollution as a result of the dumping.
The demonstrators, totaling around fifty Palestinians and ten internationals, formed a crowd at the base of the quarry, in front of a functioning bulldozer and its associated construction trailer. Many young men from Qusin waved Palestinian flags and a few held a large banner that read “Stop Destroying Our Environment”. One Israeli army vehicle parked at the top of the hill, overlooking the crowd.
Suddenly, the construction trailer began to smoke and caught fire. A few minutes later, the armored vehicle sped down into the valley and three soldiers got out. The vehicle attempted to drive forward, but the crowd was heavy, surrounding it, and the soldiers on the outside of the car began to shout. In response to a sound bomb, the crowd dispersed a bit, and a few young boys from the town ran towards the road. Several of the soldiers on foot followed, and a few minutes later, they returned with one twelve year old boy, who was actually 15 years old, frightened and in pain from the pepper spray that had brought him to surrender. Seven soldiers brought the boy back to one of their vehicles, and the crowd began to discuss negotiations for his return.
At this point, the crowd had settled a bit, but the original army vehicle had now barricaded off the other end of the quarry, prohibiting any demonstrators from leaving. Several other armored vehicles had arrived and for about twenty minutes the crowd stood around, unsure. The border police arrived and negotiations between them and mayor of Qusin lasted around twenty-five minutes. Eventually, the mayor returned with the young boy, and all were told to disperse.
One kilometer down the road, as cars were leaving, many were stopped and checked by Israeli officers, but no arrests were made. The final resistance came from a young boy leaning out the window of a packed sedan, waving his Palestinian flag as he drove by the armored vehicle.
Qusin is a small village outside of Nablus with approximately 1,941 residents. It is bordered by illegal Qedumim settlement. The village is known for its participation in prior demonstrations due to the unjust roadblocks that prevented residents from driving to Nablus from 2002 to 2009.
Written by Abby
Edited by Ashley
HOUSE REPORT No 17
March 4, 2013
At approximately eight o ‘clock pm on March third, we received a call from a friend in Bruqin, a Palestinian village on the border of an illegal Barqan industrial settlement, alerting us to a possible situation involving the army and local settlers. Three members of the team took a taxi to meet him at the outskirts of the village.
At the time of our arrival, the situation seemed calm. We traveled to the neighboring village of Kafr ad-Dak and met with two additional friends who explained the earlier incidents. According to the local residents, at approximately 7:30 p.m., a gunshot was fired in the area, though the purpose and the perpetrator are still unknown.
Subsequently, the main road between Kafr ad-Dak and Bruqin was closed by the Israeli army for approximately one hour. This created a build up of both soldiers and settlers from nearby Bruchin, another illegal settlement, and developed anxiety in local residents who feared a night incursion in the village.
As previously noted, at the time of our arrival, the village was calm and there was no military presence. On the previous Friday, the IWPS team attended the midday prayer in the waqf (local communal land trust) lands of Bruqin next to Ariel industrial area.(see Report #444)
The prayer was followed by a demonstration against the illegal expansion of both Barqan and Ariel colonies onto Salfit waqf lands. The demonstrators were met by the Israeli army’s sound bombs and tear gas as usual, followed by the arrest of three guys who were released five hours later. This was the first demonstration in this particular area, affirming the ownership of 200 dunams by the waqf.
The team was positive that our friends in Bruqin felt confident to call us about potential problems with the army or settlers. We stayed for approximately two and a half hours and spoke to local residents about land confiscation in the Salfit area, including the construction of two new settlements. One of the new settlements, Lesham, located between Pedu’el and Ale Zahav, has stolen approximately 700 dunams from Kafr ad-Dak, according to local activists.
During the conversation, our friend explained the recent struggles of the residents of Kafr ad-Dak and Bruqin. He noted that the Israeli government seeks to establish a nature reserve on the lands in the southwest of Kafr ad-Dak, which would prohibit farmers from planting crops or grazing their herds and any type of construction. It was highlighted that Salfit is a special strategic target for Israel because of the quantity and quality of its many sources of water, which are constantly appropriated by the colonies, depriving Palestinian farmers and residents of their wells, and thus, creating harsh living conditions for them.
Also it seems that Israelis have recently discovered sources of gas in that area, under Salfit lands. The Palestinian residents of Bruqin stated that if the expansion continues as planned, they will lose 80% of their lands. They are already experiencing pressure because the population of 6000 is growing and they do not have any more space to expand and build new houses.
The upcoming construction of the train track to connect the colonies with Tel Aviv adds a new threat of land confiscation to the Palestinians living there. He also noted that approximately six months ago, the Israel army destroyed twenty-one sheds and five wells that were used by farmers to store tools and feed for their animals; residents are not allowed to build structures of any sort in the north of the village, though it should be noted that construction permits are nearly non-existent for Palestinians, particularly for those living in Area C of the West Bank. Additionally, two residents in the western part of the village received demolition orders for their homes approximately one week ago. The IWPS team left Bruqin around 11:15 pm to return to Deir Istiya.
As we left, our friends showed us the river of sewage that runs through the center of the village from the nearby illegal settlement, Ariel. Though the smell was significant, they noted that in the summertime it is impossible to go outside without feeling ill. The head of the PMRS in Salfit mentioned that both people and animals are suffering from many diseases (amoebas, cancer, etc.) because of the high level of pollution of the water they are consuming (as was proven by research carried out recently by An Najah university).
Written by Ashley and Maria
Edited by Abby