Last night at 9 pm, close to Ein al Beida in the northern Jordan Valley, an Israeli military jeep rammed into a tractor of a Palestinian family, killing two little girls and injuring their father and brother.
People from the area rule out that this was a simple accident but see it as yet another act of wilful killing by the occupation forces: the tractor was stationed some 15 meters away from the settler highway n. 90, on which the military jeep was driving. Tensions ran high when locals confronted the occupation forces over the incident and the atmosphere continued to remain tense as the funeral of Masa Fuqaha, 8 years, and Jana Fuqaha, 5 years, took place this afternoon at 1 pm, at which the entire population of the area will participate. Their father Imad Fuqaha, 40, and their brother Husein Fuqaha, 11, are still hospitalized.
Ein al-Beida is situated in a plain area on the eastern foothill of the Jordan Valley and is home to over 1000 inhabitants. The dispossession of farmers in Ein al-Beida started in 1948 when the Armistice Line placed parts of the village lands under Israeli control. Immediately after the occupation of the West Bank, Mahola settlement was built as the first Israeli colony in the West Bank in 1968. Since that time, some 2000 dunums of village lands have been stolen for the built up areas and agricultural plantations of the settlement.
The killings of the two girls marked the end of a day of tensions in which the same soldiers were involved, according to eyewitnesses. Just kilometres away from where Masa and Jana were killed, in Khirbet al Maleh, the same military patrol was seen to intervene on behalf of the settlers that want to take over the area. The origin of Khirbet al Maleh dates back to the Ottoman period. Later tourism flourished in the valley with its hot springs, where the community is located. Tourism came to an end as the area was declared a military zone. Around 500 dunums situated in Wadi Al Maleh are totally inaccessible by its legal owners since the occupation of 1967 because it lies within the actual military training zone. A dozen families live in Khirbet al Maleh and settlers are now regularly attacking and threatening them as part of a process aimed at expelling these Palestinian families from their land. Palestinian and international activists set up a solidarity tent with settlers placing their own tent next to it. The occupation forces were called to the spot in defense of the settlers and to dismantle the solidarity tent. Notwithstanding verbal exchanges and scuffles, the people managed to keep their tent and presence in the area.
This killing comes only a day after the Israeli military acquitted the soldiers who had killed four youth in Nablus district. On 20 and 21 March 2010 Israeli occupation forces shot and killed four unarmed teenagers in Awarta and in Iraq Burin. None were armed nor posed any threat to the Israeli soldiers.
Israel is showing a complete disrespect for Palestinian lives. The recklessness of the military and continued wilful killings by the Occupation forces are the result of deeply ingrained racism and complete impunity of the soldiers for their crimes.
Not only is the behaviour of the Israeli occupation forces against the Palestinian people reminiscent of the most brutal colonial regimes it is further part of a systematic strategy to terrorize the people and back up the settlers that aim to take over their land.
While the wilful killings in the West Bank are on the rise again, they are far from being new for Palestinians. The first Intifada in 1987 erupted when six workers were killed by an Israeli truck. At that time the public outrage spread within days to all villages and cities in Gaza and the West Bank. Today, Gaza has its own victims to mourn. Yesterday the Israeli occupation forces killed a protestor, Ahmad Deeb, 19 years, in one of the demonstrations to reclaim the so-called ‘buffer zone’, an area of 500 meters of Palestinian agricultural land inside the Gaza Strip, which the occupation forces have declared off limits to farmers. Hundreds regularly march to the buffer zone in an attempt to slowly make the land accessible for the farmers again so that they can start growing crops for the besieged Strip. Ahmad Deeb was shot with live rounds and died shortly afterwards.