Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Collective Punishment in Safa

This morning we woke up to more alarming news from the village of Safa where my sister-in-law lives with her family. Following the murder of an Israeli settler in a nearby illegal settlement last week, the families in Safa have endured one form of collective punishment after another.

The men in the village were rounded up by Israeli soldiers and kept in the schoolyard. It's been reported that 28 men were detained for even longer periods of time. Three homes in the village were taken over by Israeli soldiers and turned into military posts. The whole village was under curfew for more than 24 hours as Israeli soldiers searched (and damaged) homes and the following days all roads leading in and out of the village were blocked.

And now Israelis living in the nearby illegal settlement and Israeli soldiers have attacked the village injuring 38 people. This is the report from Ma'an News Agency:

UPDATE: Armed settlers attack, injure 38 Palestinians;
Teenager in critical condition
Date: 08 / 04 / 2009 Time: 10:03
تكبير الخط تصغير الخط
Palestinian demonstrators confronted
the settlers [Ma'anImages]
Hebron – Ma’an – Thirty-eight Palestinians were injured when armed Israeli settlers, backed by soldiers, rampaged through the West Bank village of Safa, north of Hebron on Wednesday morning.

According to medics at Al-Ahli Hospital in Hebron 11 Palestinians were shot with live bullets, five with rubber-coated metal bullets and another 15 were treated for the effects of teargas.

One Palestinian, 18-year-old Tha’er Aadi, is in critical condition after being shot in the neck. After undergoing surgery at Al-Ahli, he was transferred to the public hospital in the city of Ramallah.

One eyewitness said that some 25 settlers from the nearby settlement Bat Ayin approached Palestinian houses and began shooting randomly. He said that Israeli military patrols were present, and watched the settlers shooting without stopping them.

Soldiers fired gunshots and tear gas canisters in order to prevent local youths from confronting the settlers, one witness said.

Neighboring villages called on for help

Calls were heard through mosque loudspeakers in the neighboring Palestinian towns of Beit Ummar and Surif asking residents to head to Safa and help protect its people from the rampaging settlers. Hundreds of youths responded to the call.

When the youth arrived Israeli troops intervened and restrained the settlers, making sure they returned their settlement unharmed. Local sources said that the settlers stole cattle as they left Safa.

Medics at Al-Ahli Hospital named some of the injured:
31-year-old Ammar Abu Dayya who was shot in the thigh,
26-year-old Suheil Abu Dayya, shot in the foot,
26-year-old Muhammad Khlayyil, also shot in the thigh,
35-year-old Walid Khlayyil, shot in the foot, and
24-year-old Muhammad Khlayyil

The mayors of nearby Hebron and Beit Ummar arrived in Safa to check on residents. According to mayor of Beit Ummar Nasri Sabarna, all of those injured in the day’s events were harmed by the soldiers supporting the settlers, and not by the settlers themselves.

Revenge attack

On Thursday in Bat Ayin a man, reportedly Palestinian, killed a teenage settler and wounded another 7-year-old boy in the settlement with an axe.

The settlement is also the origin of a militia called the Bat Ayin Underground. The father of the 7-year-old victim of last week’s attack is Ofer Gamliel, who is serving a 15-year prison sentence for attempting to bomb a Palestinian girls’ school in Jerusalem in 2002. Two other men from the settlement were also jailed for the attempted attack.

On Wednesday night, the Israeli news agency Ynet reported that Gamliel was to be released for 48 hours this week in order to visit his son.

The Israeli military has refused to comment on the incident.

***Updated at 15:04 Bethlehem time

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