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A visit in A-Tuwani, by MachsomWatch

Nina Mayorek
MachsomWatch
6.8.05

A-Tuwani is a small village of Palestinian shepherds south of Hebron. 350 people live here. The village is in the area C. Old stone houses are from the Ottoman period. New buildings (a school, a clinic and few residential houses) made from cement bricks were built without permit (no chance for a permit), and can be
destroyed by the Israeli forces, at any `suitable` moment. The address of citizens of A-Tuwani, as stated in their IDs, is Yata or Hebron. From time to time , when the Israeli army has an urge to harass A-Tuwani people, soldiers at the flying checkpoint at the entrance to the village do not let people go to their homes, because A-Tuwani does not appear in their IDs as their home address.

Below is the story of Juma Rabani and his struggle against Maon settlers and the Israeli authority, who try to disposess him from his land.
Juma told his story during the visit of Machsom Watch women in A-Tuwani on Saturday August 6, 2005.

Juma is an owner of agricultural land - he has an ownership documents from the Turkish times. Three years ago Maon settlers decided to prevent Juma from cultivating his land. After he plowed and planted, settlers entered and destroyed his work. DCO interfered in this `conflict` and decided that Juma`s land is a closed military zone, but Juma was allowed to tend to his land on Saturdays and Jewish holidays. However he was requested to apply for a special permit each time he wanted to work on his field.

At the beginning of the last winter (around December 2004) , Juma asked his brothers to get a permit for cultivating the land on one of Saturdays. His brothers spent the whole day trying to enter the DCO office, but did not manage to enter the office, nor to apply for a permit. During the next few days Juma`s family noticed that settlers from Havat Maon plow Juma`s land during weekdays (days of the closed military zone!), and the soldiers guard them.
Juma decided that he will use his land for sheep grazing, because he understood that he will not be able to cultivate anything.
On one winter day settlers (among them one named Gadi) decided to challenge the shepherds. Gadi threw a stone towards Juma, another settler with a gun threatened to shoot Juma and his sheep. A-Tuwani people moved their sheep out of the land, and than returned. Subsequently, settlers attacked the shepherds and the Operation Dove people, who tried to record the whole event with their video camera. They severely injured two people from the Operation Dove group, Georgio and Yohanes, who had to be hospitalized.

Juma went to the Kiryat Arba police station to complain about the settlers` attack. He met there Avi Kotenberg, an officer, who shouted at Juma and accused Ezra (a Taayush person, very much committed to A-Tuwani cause) of pushing Juma into unnecessary confrontations with settlers. When Juma told Avi that he will report to the media about his behavior, Avi calmed down and apologized. At the same time, when Juma was at the police station, settlers again launched an attack, this time against the sheep, while blue police observed the event without interfering.

In order to end this `conflict` the army decided to convert the area into `a firing zone no 918`, meaning nobody is allowed to enter there, however another piece of land belonging to Juma`s family was permitted to be used for grazing.

On March 25, 2005, A-Tuwani people found poison grains spread on their grazing land. Gedalia, a security officer from the Maon settlement claimed that Juma was the one who spread the poison. Juma informed the media and took ensured proper film documentation. A-Tuwani people, together with Taayush and international activists, started to collect poison grains. The Israeli organization for Nature Protection (Hevra Lehaganat Hateva) became very worried , when wild goats and eagles started to die. Abu Bahar, Druze worker of this organization insisted that teenagers from Maon settlement will participate in the cleaning activity, in spite of Juma`s objections. While cleaning fields, Juma heard young settlers saying, that they want to transfer collected poison grains in order to poison sheep in a nearby Susia village.
Spreading of the poison by the settlers resulted in death of 60 sheep. The most significant loss was sheep milk, which could not be used for 3 months.

The attacks of settlers continue all the time. Juma says that, that when settlers appear, he asks the CPT people or friendly Israelis to call the police. He says that if he calls the police never comes.

A few weeks ago a lawyer from the Israeli Center for the Defence of the Individual (Moked le Haganat Haprat) sent a map proving that the fire zone no 918 does not overlap with Juma`s land.

At the end of July Juma decided to use his non-`fire zone land` for gazing his herd of sheep. On August 1-st, ttlers spotted A-Tuwani people on the `conflict` land and called the army. Juma showed the DCO officer, who arrived quickly, the map hich he get from the Defence Center, but the officer just toree map to pieces. While Juma left the area, another jeep with soldiers appeared. Soldiers started to beat a shepherd named Nasser,and Juma`s 60 years old mother in law, whom they found with their sheep in the `conflict` area.
Nasser was severely beaten by 7 soldiers. Beatings were recorded by Diane from Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT). The copy of this film can be obtained by calling Diane - tel. +972-546893690.

Blue police detained Nasser. He was accused of grabbing a gun from one of soldiers (this is a standard accusation). Nasser was released on a bail of 2000 IS by the Taayush people.

The struggle of Juma and other A-Tuwani people continues.

It is worthwhile to add that objectives of the settlers and the Israeli authorities are very clear. Both want to disposess the vilagers of the South Hebron hills, and to force them to live in Yata, a kind of Bantustan of the South part of the occupied West Bank.




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