Awarta Under Seige

Settler violence escalates as the military occupies and raids villages

Palestine Monitor

14 March 2011
International Solidarity Movement activists in Awarta describe a horrific “collective punishment” of the Palestinian village: children taken from school, homes raided, imposition of a 24-hour curfew, constant drone surveillance, and massive imprisonments of the male population.

“The soldiers have locked us with the children and young men and are guarding me now,” said an International Solidarity Movement (ISM) member who spoke on condition of anonymity. “We can’t leave the house and right now we can’t even leave this room.”

Awarta has become a ghost town, with all the villagers confined to their homes, running out of gas, scared and crying quietly under the buzz of drones and detonations of sound bombs.

“The soldiers take people in every house. I don’t know how many hundreds of people they’ve taken now. The children are scared, of course. The women are crying. They take their sons and fathers away. All the village is very quiet, people can’t really talk, the children have to be quiet,” the member said. After gathering some of them from school, Awarta’s boys and men were taken by soldiers to the jail near Huwara. “Here they are collectively punished.”

ISM reports that the military has beaten people, cut off electricity and polluted water lines, and broken computers and phones.

Huwara to Hebron

From north to south in the West Bank (or Judea to Samara), settlers have lashed out this week at Palestinian civilians and their property. They have stoned cars on roads around Hebron, Kiryat Arba, Shiloh, Huwarra and Nablus, and two nights ago destroyed a nursery, a building, and smashed windows in Huwara.

Yesterday, settlers torched four cars near the junction towards Yitzhar. Down the road at Adam’s Burger King restaurant and confectionery, the owner was locking up a dusk yesterday.

“Last night we did not sleep,” the owner said. He described a dark, fearful night of listening to the synchronized mosques’ speakers blaring warnings down the valley. A caravan of settlers from the funeral of the killed Itamar family was returning soon, and the village feared a restless night of waiting to be attacked.

“We’d rather be open till midnight or one, but we’re closing,” he said as his businesses’ iron shutters squeaked shut. A rock flew out from a passing car with yellow license plates, quickening his work. “Be careful, move your car. They are crazy. Things are bad, very bad.”

Across the street lays a ruined construction project. The night before, settlers had come and ravaged the site, tearing down walls, breaking material and causing thousands of dollars worth of damage.

“They are terrorists,” Ismael said, holding broken marble slabs, standing on a pile of ruined construction material estimated to be worth $3,000.

“Every year it is worse in the West Bank,” said Mohammad Hassan, a Huwara resident whose house, the closest to the Yitzhar outposts, is guarded by a small Israeli squad. “If the situation stays like this, it will be ten time as crazy.”

“This is forever, believe me,” said Hassan. “I wish we could live in peace together but if they don’t take the settlers out of the West Bank we will never come to peace with Israel or the settlers.”

Across the valley, Maan News Agency reported that soldiers roamed Awarta yesterday with loudspeakers blaring a call for all 15-40 year-olds to gather at the local school, where the Palestinian New Network reported 12 were arrested.

More than a dozen settlers in white masks entered Jinsafout last night, incinerated a car to its chassis, and attempted to burn a tractor. Two more cars were reported burnt just north of Ramallah.

So far, Awarta has not witnessed any settler violence, perhaps because of the leadership of their neighbors from Itamar. While announcing plans to build a new residential area in the settlement named after slain patriarch and rabbi Udi Fogel, [the settlers expressed to Haaretz a complete denial of reprisal attacks against Palestinians-http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/residents-of-itamar-settlement-price-tag-isn-t-even-part-of-our-lexicon-1.349096].

“People who know us ask us why we’ve come to study with all the crazies, but that’s rubbish. There is an extremist group in the area, they are reactionary, and their photographs are always printed in the papers,” Brooker adds. “But understand: ’price tag,’ demonstrations, it’s not even a part of our lexicon. Never has been, never will be.”

But the ISM member trapped in Awarta drew a different conclusion.

“The military does such a good job – the settlers doesn’t need to be here.”

More and more settlements

After the funeral for the killed Fogel family, Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu approved expansions in Gush Etzion, Ma’ale Adumim, Ariel, and Kiryat Sefer with 500 new buildings.

“It’s not because of a particular terrorist attack that we will build a few more houses in [Gush Etzion] or in Maaleh Adumim,” said Elyakim Levanon, a rabbi from Elon Moreh. “Rather, we have to convene at our own initiative and decide where and how we want to build; this is our land and our country.”

“We have to stop once and for all with this nonsense about ‘illegal outposts’,” Levanon said on the temporary postponement yesterday of his new position as Samaria’s first Chief Rabbi. “This is our home and our inheritance, and we must continue building, and Itamar must become a city and a new center in the [northern West Bank].”

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