Every week the farmers and herders of South Hebron hills request accompaniment from international activists to access their lands. At 07:00 this morning, IWPS and 23 other activists went to the South Hebron hills to document the aftermath of a settler attack the previous day, as well as accompany a farmer to his land.
The group met with the owner on his land, where he pointed out the illegal settlement outpost of Mitpe Yair which has been recently expanded (three greenhouses were illegally set up and soil prepared for wheat cultivation).
As soon as we entered the area, 20 soldiers, four police and three border police attempted to deny us access to the land, stating it was a closed military zone. The entire group refused to stop walking until the documents were physically produced. The military never showed us the documents and we sat for an hour and a half while the Hebrew speakers and the land owners conversed with the army.
After two hours and the arrival of more than 10 Israeli military jeeps, the land owner decided it was time to leave. We then drove to Atwani, where last night the settlers set fields on fire, burning 60 olive trees. The owner of the land and his sons succeeded in putting the fires relatively quickly.
After the owner contacted his local civil administration, the military came to the burned plot. They asked, “Whose land is this?” He told them it was his and his family’s; that he had tilled and planted it for 20 years. The soldiers then said, “No,” and said it was the settlers’ land and if he did not leave immediately he would be arrested. When we arrived a few settlers, all dressed in white, walked side by side with the army who unsuccessfully attempted to detain several Israeli activists.
During the British mandate this entire region of South Hebron hills was designated agricultural zone, meaning that no structures were allowed to be built, with the exception of settlements. The lands in this area are often re-appropriated by the Israeli government which in such cases issues a statement claiming the land was empty or underutilized, without taking violence from the settlers or the military into account.
Source: IWPS HRR No. 474