Earlier today Israeli occupation forces arrested the following five members of the local committee against the Wall and Settlements in Khirbet Safa: Younis Arar, coordinator of the Committee; Mousa Abu Maria, External Relations Officer; Mohamed Ayad Awad, Media Spokesman; Sakhr Abu Maria and Atef Abu Diya, both members of the popular committee. In addition to these five, another five international solidarity activists were arrested during the weekly march.
The march started at one o’clock this afternoon from the municipality and moved in the direction of the area where settlers had laid a foundation stone last week for a new outpost “Gav’at Ires Shlomo”. The area is on top of a hill close to Khirbat Safa. Land in the area is owned by families from Beit Ummar.
The march began to move towards the land threatened with confiscation – an area of 1200 dunums belonging to the families of Qoukas, âAdi and Khalil from Beit Ummar. Khirbat Safaâs 600 residents are living on this land and depend for their income primarily from livestock and agriculture in the surrounding hills.
First reports indicate that when the area where the new outpost is to be built was reached, some of the people in the protest march proceeded to symbolically dismantle small parts of the foundations, already laid by the settlers. Initially the occupation forces present in the area did not intervene and gave the protesters a 10 minutes warning. As soon as the ten minutes period was over, so-called Israeli “border police” arrived on the scene and, according to the coordinator of the Stop the Wall Campaign in Hebron district, Raed Abu Ayyash, these “border police” started to attack the people using disproportionate violence. They started firing rubber-coated metal bullets, teargas and sound grenades at the people in the march and in the area of the village. This led to four injuries from rubber-coated metal bullets. Dozens of people suffered respiratory problems, among them residents of Khirbet Safa who had stayed in their homes.
The occupation forces finally arrested the five Palestinians and the five international anti-Wall activists. The international solidarity activists are already released and there is hope that one other Palestinian will be released as well soon. This is yet another proof of the racial discrimination, which is institutionalized in the Israeli legal system and which sees the international detainees released without charges, while the Palestinian prisoners will likely stay on in jail, without recourse to fair trial.
As in al-Ma’sara and other places in Bethlehem district, the protests are directed against the expansion of the Gush Etzion settlement block and the Wall that will surround its expansion area. Both the settlements and the Wall are internationally recognized as illegal, yet the international community has consistently failed to comply with its obligation to ensure that the grave violations of the IV Geneva Convention and various Human Rights Conventions that result from both the building of the Wall and settlement construction, are brought to an end.