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From the field

Halhul: Settler violence prevents Palestinians from working their land, June 2002

Abdallah 'Aqel (Qarajeh), laborer, aged 41

On Saturday, June 8, 2002, settlers from Karme Zur were killed. A day or two later, the settlers started building a road south of the settlement. It's four kilometers long. The road starts near Halhul and goes to Beit Umar. About 400 dunum of agricultural land owned by more than forty families from Halhul, including my own, were left between the settlement and the new road. As a result, the farmers can't get to their lands and work them. The settlers chase the farmers, shoot in the air, threaten their lives, confiscate their ID cards and damage the crop. At first, the army saw what was happening and didn't intervene. Then, the soldiers, in cooperation with the settlers, started preventing farmers from reaching their lands. The soldiers claimed it was a military zone. They designated an area spanning 300 meters south east of the settlement fence. No one is allowed to go near the area or enter it.

On Friday, June 14, 2002, at 7:00 AM, I went with my brother, Ahmad, aged 47, and other farmers from Halhul to the lands to work. The settlement's guards came and tried to drive us away. The army intervened, and we were allowed to work. At 11:00 AM, four people who said they were the settlement's security men came to the land and started shooting in the air and harassing us. They had a knife and said they would stab us if we didn't leave. They cut the ropes we had tied on the grapevines. My brother, Ahmad, was injured in the face and was taken to hospital for treatment. The settlers also pushed a woman named 'Aziza Ahmad 'Aqel, aged 55, off the donkey she was riding. Her leg was injured and she was taken to hospital. The army gave her and my brother first aid, near the army base, before they were taken to hospital.

That day, the army called the police. When the police officers arrived, they told us to file a complaint with the Kiryat Arba police the next day. We did so. Four days later, Israeli policemen arrived at the place to check it. We still haven't got an answer. We try to get to our lands almost every day, because we can't abandon the orchards, especially these days, when the grapevines require daily treatment. But, as soon as we get there, the settlers, the army, or both drive us away while threatening to kill or arrest us.

Abdallah Mahmud Noah 'Aqel (Qarajeh), born in 1961, is married and the father of three. He is an engineer, and a resident of Halhul. The testimony was given to Musa Abu Hashhash in Halhul, July 7, 2002.