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Update from South Hebron Hills: The IDF on cruise control

Israeli activists that try to escort Palestinian farmers to their water holes are met with smoke grenades and threatened with arrests

Ziyad Yunis, a Palestinian farmer, with his water tank (photo: Justin Randle)

Bir-el Eid, South Hebron Hills – Last Saturday, Taa’yush activists escorted again Ziyad Yunis from Bir el Eid to his water cistern. Once again settlers from the nearby illegal outpost of Mitzpeh Yair rushed down to us to violently and unabashedly prevent us from doing so. Once again the army and police showed up to kick us out of the area without due cause. This Saturday they also used smoke grenades on us.

The scenario is quite clear. Palestinians are afraid to go about their business because of settler violence and army oppression. Israeli activists escort them. Settlers arrive and disrupt what we are doing, curse at us, attack us – they are screaming and shoving, angry and menacing. It is still unfathomable to me how adamant they are of depriving people of water they don’t even need as they have their own constant supply flowing directly into their homes. And it is not on their land anyway. Clearly they are the ones causing the problem, with the problem. They are the provokers. The dynamic is clear as day.

However, the military does not appraise the situation responsibly. In fact they do not bother to evaluate the situation at all. They function on cruise control. They arrive within minutes of us with a Closed Military Zone order already in hand, screaming at us to leave or suffer arrest. The settlers in this case are also told to leave, but with handshakes, shoulder pats and smiles.

No amount of pleading with the army to keep the settlers away and allow Ziyad Yunis to pump his water leads to any understanding or results. Not even the settlers’ unruly and violent behavior. Not even the fact that last week they damaged property by slashing the tires of the tractor and drawing a Star of David on it. Not even the fact that there is a Supreme Court ruling from 2006 about this very matter and other local rulings in this matter that explicitly instruct the IDF to insure and protect the Palestinians against settlers in such situations.

All I could do was repeat to the soldiers in a desperate cry several times, “you are confused. The IDF is confused.”

Ta’ayush activists arguing with IDF soldiers on South Hebron Hills (photo: Justin Randle)

... and they are answered with smoke grenades (photo: Mairav Zonszein)

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