Spring rains have mostly ended in Palestine leaving verdant hillsides is a usually dry land. It seems to breathe hope. But life under occupation continues as before, perhaps more difficult.
Throughout the day on Saturday, the Israeli Occupation Forces [IOF] blocked the main entrance to the village of Deir Istiya, a village in the Salfit District southwest of Nablas. The village mayor, Michigan Peace Team [MPTers] and International Women’s Peace Service [IWPS] went to the entrance where the IOF and Israeli border police were blocking the entrance and the highway going north and south.
Deir Istiya mayor [blue jacket] negotiates with
the Israeli military and police. [photo left. Click on to enlarge.]
When the Israeli police were questioned by MPT and IWPS they stated that the highway was blocked because a bomb had been placed on the road. The calmness of the IOF and the police belied this probability. MPT and IWPS watched and waited while the mayor spoke to the police and soldiers.
Traffic is blocked both north and south on the highway and into the village.
After about ½ hour, the IOF and Israeli police left, but they had blocked the highway and entrance for more than 2 hours in total. The blocking of the area forces village cars and buses to drive about ten miles out of their way to another entrance.
A couple hours later, MPT and IWPS returned to the site where again the IOF had blocked the main entrance.
A short conversation ensued between the young soldiers and MPT and IWPS. Soldiers asked: “How can we [soldiers] be helpful? Why are you here? Where are you from? Was there a problem with the IOF? Where are you sleeping? “Most questions were answered with a question. One soldier pointed out that the area was dangerous – even noting that a small black garbage bag by the side of the road could be unsafe. When IWPS offered to open the bag, but the offer was ignored. The IOF left within a half hour after the internationals arrival.
The military state their motive as security. Or is it harassment?
What difference did the MPT and IWPS presence make? Perhaps the IOF and Israel police left earlier because of them. Maybe Palestinians were treated with more respect and no arrests were made.
Why were the IOF and Israeli police there? There are very large illegal Israeli settlements in the area, slicing pie chunks into Palestine. Illegal settlements demand protection. A more probable reason for road blocks is that with continued harassment, perhaps Palestinians will decide life is too difficult and leave the area.
In the last month four teenage boys were killed by the IOF in two villages less than 20 miles from the village of Deir Istiya. These boys did nothing that would deserve death. Security of settlers may be the excuse given for the road blocks, but in reality it is the security of Palestinians that is under threat by the settlers and the Israeli military.