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Israel Detains 5 Internationals Activists in West Bank Saffa Valley
Jill Kestler D’Amours
for the Alternative Information Center (AIC)
Five internationals were arrested this morning (14 November) in the West Bank’s Saffa Valley near the village of Beit Ummar, where they were working with local Palestinian farmers to clear the land.
Four Israeli army jeeps descended on the group of volunteers at 10 a.m., only one hour after they had started working. The soldiers told the Palestinians to leave the area, and proceeded to arrest the internationals, according to Mousa Abu Maria, co-founder of the Palestine Solidarity Project (PSP), a non-violent direct action group that organizes the Saffa Valley replanting project.
“The people every week they go two times, Sunday and Thursday. They clean the land and the rubbish because we have a program to plant 5,000 olive trees,” Abu Maria said. “We have all the documents. We don’t work against any law.”
The Saffa valley sits at the edge of Israel’s Bat Ayn settlement in the occupied West Bank. It was destroyed by Israeli settlers in 2009 and is presently under threat of annexation by the Israeli military. Palestinian farmers are regularly harassed when trying to access their lands in the area.
This is the second year that the Palestine Solidarity Project has organized groups of international and Israeli volunteers to come and accompany farmers and replant the land.
“They are in a legal area. They don’t do anything against the settlement or the soldiers, so I don’t know why they want to arrest these people,” Abu Maria said.
As of 12:30 p.m. today, the internationals were still being held at the police station in the nearby settlement of Gush Etzion, Abu Maria said.
He added that one international volunteer from Australia had been attacked by a soldier, and hit in the head when being put into the Israeli army jeep.
“The farmer, when he is in his land, has all the documents and shows the soldiers. I don’t know why they care about the internationals,” Abu Maria said.
Six internationals were arrested in the same area on Sunday November 14 while accompanying farmers. Last Tuesday, two Palestinian farmers were also detained on their land in the Saffa Valley for five hours and threatened with arrest.
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