On the morning of Tuesday, February 12th, 2013, MPT’s three person team joined seven additional internationals to provide protective accompaniment for an estimated twenty Palestinian farmers in the Palestinian village of Urif. The ten international peace activists in total were invited to meet with the Urif city council, and to subsequently accompany the farmers in planting 50 olive trees.
Immediately upon the group’s arrival to the planting field, Israeli Defense Forces, already stationed on the hillside above, began to descend upon the Palestinian land. Despite the military presence, the farmers began planting their olive trees. MPT initially took on the role of observation, filming and photographing the events.
Soldiers quickly arrived on the scene, and one immediately demanded to see MPT team members’ passports. After MPT inquisitions as to the soldier’s identification badge, he produced his Border Police card. Two MPT teamers relinquished their passports, not to be returned to them until hours later.
MPT continued to observe, video, and photograph the scene. The armed soldiers began to use force, pulling the villagers’ tools out of their hands, filling in the holes as they were digging, and kicking over newly planted olive trees. Many soldiers had surrounded one older farmer as he was attempting to plant his tree. MPT observed as the farmer knelt to the ground, and soldiers began grabbing his arms and body while shouting at him. MPT then interpositioned themselves between the soldiers and the farmer, creating for him a circle of safety.
Soldiers pulled MPT teamers away from the farmer and proceeded in an attempt to restrain him. MPT and one additional international peace activist again clung to the farmer. Although Israeli soldiers pepper-sprayed the entire group, the farmer was successfully de-arrested.
The entire MPT team and the additional international were then detained by Israeli forces, ordered to their knees, with their wrists zip-tied. Shortly thereafter, two internationals and one Palestinian farmer from Urif joined them in the detainment. The Palestinian farmer was soon released. In total, six internationals were arrested and transferred by the Israeli military into the custody of local police authorities in Ari’el, a nearby illegal Israeli settlement.
Ari’el police photocopied all of the passports of those arrested and contacted their respective American, Finland, and Denmark Embassies. After four hours of detainment, all were released on the condition that each sign a paper stating that he or she would not reenter the area near Urif because Israel considers it a “closed military zone.”