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Azzun Atma: a Village Surrounded

(Demonstrators stand in front of the checkpoint into 'Azzun 'Atma)

Michigan Peace Team was invited to a demonstration outside the West Bank village of ‘Azzun ‘Atma, in the Qalqiliya district on Friday, August 14th. Movement in and out of ‘Azzun ‘Atma, is completely controlled by the Israeli military. Palestinians wishing to enter the village can only due so if they have a special permit and live in the village. The village is located in what is known as the “seam zone”, which is any area between the green line and the separation barrier. Neither the seam zone area nor the wall make a uniform line, instead they jut deep into the West Bank where settlements are located. Along the path of the Wall, Palestinian lands have been annexed and movement is restricted. The Qalqiliya area is a prime example of the incohesive geography of the West Bank due to the Wall, illegal Israeli settlements and checkpoints. There are four illegal Israeli settlements surrounding ‘Azzun ‘Atma (see map below) and according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the separation barrier is projected to completely surround the village.

(Qalqiliya area. Click to enlarge)

(Close-up of 'Azzun 'Atma area)

MPTers joined around 25 Palestinian activists and 3 Israelis near the checkpoint into ‘Azzun ‘Atma to protest the increased restriction of movement for Palestinians living inside and around the village. Palestinians gave speeches, some of which were directed at the soldiers who had come out of the checkpoint once the demonstration began. Soldiers drove their jeep out of the checkpoint, parking it in the road and making it harder for cars to enter the village. During the protest, soldiers told one of the demonstration leaders that the action was obstructing traffic for people entering the checkpoint. The Palestinian man replied that the action may be obstructing traffic for 5 or 10 minutes, but the checkpoint has been obstructing it for 2 years.

(Checkpoint into the village with an illegal Israeli settlement in the back.)

(Residents of 'Azzun 'Atma must go through an Israeli checkpoint to enter their own village.)

(Soldiers complained that the demonstration was disrupting traffic into the checkpoint.)

Villagers of ‘Azzun ‘Atma do not normally joined the demonstration outside their village for fear of reprisal, such as having their Jerusalem permits taken away. Many depend on access to Jerusalem for their jobs that support their families. Several soldiers took pictures of the activists during the protest, which is one form of intimidation used to discourage the actions from continuing. When one MPTer took out her camera to photograph a soldier who was taking pictures of the demonstration, the soldier immediately put his camera away. To support their neighbors in ‘Azzun ‘Atma, Palestinians from the town of Qalqiliya and the surrounding villages organize and put on the demonstrations every other Friday. One activist told MPT that although the demonstration has started out small, he hopes it will grow in the future.

(Soldiers stood across from the demonstration for the duration of the action.)

(A soldier taking a picture of the demonstrators.)

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