Palestinian village pays a high price to defend its land | Israeli-Palestinian conflict News
Beita, occupied West Bank – This quaint little town with its narrow, winding roads and steep hills dotted with olive trees and stone houses turned into a bloody battlefield as Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli forces over the construction of an illegal colony on their land.
Beita activists called on residents to fight the continued takeover of their lands on Mount Sabih by Israeli settlers, who are currently building an illegal settlement and threatening the livelihoods of at least 17 Palestinian families – more than 100 people. – which depend on the harvest of their olives. land they have owned for generations.
“Today we had 50 rubber bullet wounds, 26 live ammunition wounds, 190 tear gas inhalation and 27 other injuries, including beatings,” said Fawas Beitar, a paramedic and coordinator on Friday. of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS).
“Two of the injuries are serious and involve a live bullet to the neck and another bullet to the abdomen,” Beitar told Al Jazeera.
“Several ambulances were targeted by rubber bullets, two paramedics were injured by tear gas inhalation and rubber bullets respectively.”
Following a call to action launched by Palestinian militants, unrest was already brewing early Friday afternoon before the end of communal prayers.
In order to prevent people from reaching the protest site, Israeli soldiers stopped taxis on the main road between Ramallah and Nablus and forced them to take alternative routes.
It required a roundabout journey on foot and in a private car through the hills towards a towering, swollen plume of smoke on the horizon where clashes had erupted.
Throughout the day, groups of young men, watched by reporters on top of a hill, played cat and mouse as they attempted to descend the valley, through a dirt road where were parked Israeli vehicles and soldiers, and headed up Mount Sabih to the settlement in protest.
Two young men with blackened hands, who declined to be photographed for security reasons, told Al Jazeera that settlers carried out regular raids in Beita – chopping down olive trees, vandalizing property and provoking local people – and had already injured many young men.
“They won’t take our land until they kill us all,” Ahmed said.
Israeli drones armed with tear gas canisters flew over periodically before hovering over the young men and distributing their charges.
Using binoculars, Al Jazeera observed Israeli soldiers shooting at the young men with live ammunition, rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas.
Ambulances rushed past to pick up the wounded, confirming the injuries of journalists waiting before evacuating patients to a field hospital.
Ambulances, sometimes traveling in convoys, turned back and forth until the early evening, when the sound of the howling sirens finally died down.
There were so many injuries that the PRCS turned a local school into a field hospital for emergency treatment, including triage, x-rays and intravenous drains before patients were released to return home or rushed to the hospital. to Rafidia Hospital in Nablus for further treatment.
Muhammad Khabeisa – whose family has lived in Beita for more than five generations and lost land to settlers – told Al Jazeera that the Israelis had already taken two hectares (five acres) of village land and moved into around 45 homes. prefabricated since early May. .
He said the villagers have asked the Israeli authorities for documents proving their land ownership, which have been provided. However, the documents are only valid for 45 days, Khabeisa noted.
“Every time we apply, it costs 80 Israeli shekels [$25] and the documents are only valid for 45 days. So we went back about a week ago to request new documents, but we have not yet received a response, ”Khabeisa said, showing Al Jazeera the“ expired ”documents.
“We then went to the Israeli police to say that we wanted to open a case against the theft of our land, but we were told that the policemen responsible were not there and that they had to come back. But every time we come back there’s another excuse they can’t help us with.
“In addition, our lawyers told us that without new Israeli documents demonstrating land ownership, they cannot defend the case in court,” Khabeisa said.
“The take-over of the land had previously been gradual, with Israeli soldiers using the land in the late 1980s as a temporary military base, claiming that they would only use the land for short periods of time. However, afterwards they started to lay concrete for the construction, but a senior military official still assured us that the land was ours. “
Previous cases filed by Palestinians demanding the return of land expropriated for the construction of illegal settlements have taken years to be dealt with in Israeli courts, and only a fraction of the land has been returned.
“We think the Israelis are delaying providing us with renewed proof of our ownership because they want to establish the facts on the ground by taking more land and building more houses so that even if we win in the end, it it will be impossible to overthrow the established colony, ”Khabeisa said.
Musa Abu Muti, who also lost land to settlements, told Al Jazeera that Palestinians were not allowed to approach their olive groves because the area had now been declared a closed military zone.
Settlers attempted several weeks ago to seize another hill belonging to Beita, but strong protests from residents – in which a doctor and a teacher were shot dead by Israeli soldiers in addition to dozens more wounded – temporarily prevented this takeover with Palestinians defiantly. climb a flag to its top.
The unity of the city of Beita in the face of the expropriation of land was evident in the organization of Friday’s protests with young boys carrying boxes of water and food prepared by women in Beita to young men on the front lines. as they took turns during the clashes.
As the sun set later in the evening, a cautious calm settled in the city.
But later, around midnight, groups of men known as erbak al-layli – or “nocturnal confusion units” – took up positions in various places in the valley, lighting fires in order to confront the settlers if they tried to enter the city.
“So far there have been no deaths in the past few weeks, but the real test will be in September when the olive picking season begins and we can no longer approach our orchards,” said Khabeisa.
Reports are now circulating that the Israelis may demand a halt to construction on Mount Sabih, but Khabeisa said villagers will wait and see before they hope.