*NEW* Search Our Team Reports! Type a word/phrase in the box below (hint: try "settlers').


Awarta: Half its Land Stolen by a Settlement

A cloudy spring day in Awarta, when all is green and fresh.*

The main road to Nablus stretches out across the top of the photo. Awarta vehicles are not allowed to pass through the Huwwara checkpoint to go to Nablus.*

Awarta, a Palestinian village of 6,500 people, lies to the east of the infamous Huwwara checkpoint and very close to the Israeli occupation army base. This village had a total of 20,000 dunams or about 5,000 acres. The nearby Israeli settlement of Itamar took 12,000 dunams from the village, leaving the village 8,000 dunams or about 2,000 acres. The illegal Israeli settlement of Itamar occupies the tops of many hills. It is the highest and longest settlement in the West Bank.

In the early morning, the red roofed houses of the nearby settlement are easy to see.*

The MPTer who visited Awarta with Zakiraya, MPT Palestinian contact, met Qis, the head of the Awarta village council in his office. As in every visit to Palestinians, guests receive several cups of tea, coffee and juice or pop. The ancient desert tradition of warmly welcoming guests is very much honored. Qis gave an overview of the problems of the village.

Qis, the head of the Far'ata Village Council informed the MPTer of the difficult situation of the Far'ata villagers.

Part of Awarta is in area B [Palestinian Authority and Israeli army control] and part in area C [total Israeli occupation army control.] In area C, the northern part of the village, no new building permits are allowed. There is a possibility that a new power station will be build by Israel to bring better electricity to ten villages. [The settlements must need better electricity!] It is probable that the Israeli army District Coordinating Office [DCO] will allow power lines for Area B, but not for Area C, according to Qis, village council head.

Besides no new construction being allowed in Area C, no improvements in the infrastructure can be made. The village council hopes to build a needed road in this area, but fears the military will then destroy it. Many of the farmers in Area C need to work in their olive groves, but the Israeli army will not give them permission to plow or harvest there.

Traveling from Awarta to the nearby villages of Agraba and Yanun was a 10 to 15 minute trip in the past, but now takes more than 40 minutes. The road previously went through Awarta, but now the new direct road is a settler-only road, so villagers take longer round-about side roads. There are some roads that Palestinians can use only when they have permission for farming in an area. Palestinians who used settler-only roads risk arrest. This is all part of the illegal apartheid occupation.

Schools are a source of pride for a village. They are also a site of conflict when Israeli soldiers come there to taunt the high school boys.*

Qis, Awarta Village Council Head, stated that although Muslims have lived in the village more than a thousand years, Israelis settlers come once a month to two holy places in the village, harassing the village with each visit. Qis said there seemed to have been an ancient Hebrew prophet, Abel Aser, who lived in the village. [This area would have been Samaria in Biblical times. Various names are given to the Hebrew prophets who may have been buried here. There are some tomb-like structures.] Israeli settlers usually come in the middle of the day before the school lunch break and the Israeli occupation army accompanies them. They come to the area behind the village high school or close to the main road, blocking it, so that students cannot go home. The Israeli army often shoots off tear gas bombs. [The taunting of high school boys is a common tactic of the Israeli occupation forces.] The village has two high schools, one for girls and one for boys, and two grade schools.

There is constant harassment by Israeli settlers. In September 2008, settlers burned more than 400 Awarta olive trees.[ See http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/IRIN/30aced5b563941357762b51f5d06c42f.htm

[Reuters – information from INIR – UN OCHA press.]

Villagers sometimes get permission to plow their land that is near an illegal Israeli settlement. In April 2009, MPTers accompanied a Awarta village farmer plowing his olive groves. After only about 20 minutes of plowing with two hired tractors the Israeli occupying force stopped the plowing. Even though the man had 1947 [before Israel was a nation] titles for his land, he was not allowed to work his land. An Israeli settler who appeared on the scene told the Israeli army that the land did not belong to the Palestinian since he had sold it. [ See: http://mptinpalestine.blogspot.com/2009/04/plowing-olive-groves-under-israeli.html ]

Qis explained other problems of the village. The Israeli army will allow all West Bank cars to pass through the Huwwara checkpoint to Nablus, with the one exception of Awarta cars. No Awarta cars are allowed to pass. There is only one source of water for the whole village and five other villages and slow pumps, so villages must buy water from tank trucks. Before the Itamar settlement the village has free access to many wells.

Qis said that the villagers mainly farm, working in their olive groves, but some work in Israel. This work is illegal and can have serious consequences if one is caught. [ For the blog on an MPT visit with an Awarta villager who had tried to enter Israel to work click on http://mptinpalestine.blogspot.com/2009/05/trauma-of-barbed-wire-beating.html ]

MPT’s business card explains well MPT’s mission, but the MPTer emphasized to Qis that a large part of MPT work is educating USA citizens about the situation and suffering of the Palestinians. Qis said he knew of the USA involvement in Palestine. He said the Israel occupation army was supplied with military equipment and financial support from the USA. He had recently heard that Israel was going to put Palestinian prisoners in the same type of orange jump suits used in Guantanamo. The MPTer said most Americans are ignorant of the existence and extent of USA involvement in the oppressive Israeli occupation of Palestine, but felt truly sadden by any assistance given to the occupation.

A beautiful peaceful sunset belies the struggles of the villagers of Awarta.*

[To see a website dedicated to the settlement Itamar click on http://www.friendsofitamar.org/slides.html ]

All starred * pictures came from the website below. This website is a pictorical history of the area. The MPT arrived too late in the day for photos


No comments: