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From the field

Settlers attack olive pickers in front of soldiers, Tekoa', Bethlehem District, Oct. 2006

Fawzi Jabarin, 27

Fawzi Jabarin

Most of our village's land is farmland. In the 1970s and 1980s, thousands of dunams of the village's land was expropriated, and the settlements Teqoa and Nokdim were built on it. Since then, we have been not even been able to get to our land around these two settlements. Every time we approach the land, settlers attack us. This usually happens during the olive harvest.

Before the intifada, we could harvest olives with an army escort. The DCO coordinated it, and the soldiers prevented the settlers from approaching us. Now, the situation is different. There is no coordination between the Israeli side and the Palestinian side, and we don't have an army escort. When we approach the settlers' land, they draw their weapons, throw stones at us, and beat us with clubs. All this takes place in front of the soldiers guarding the settlements.

Two days ago [Friday, 27 October], I went with my family and other families to land on Roman Mountain . Teqoa D, an expansion of Teqoa, was built nearby and there are caravans on the site. We were about 300 people, residents of the village and foreign volunteers who came to help with the picking. When we got to our groves, we were shocked to see that the olive trees had been broken and uprooted. We know that a family of settlers living nearby did it.

Some of the families unloaded harvesting equipment from the vehicles and got ready to pick the trees that had been destroyed. Suddenly, we saw a group of settlers coming toward us: five males, one them walking with a cane, five women, and six children aged about ten to sixteen. Six armed soldiers were with them. The settlers were carrying clubs and stones, and when they got to about ten meters from us, they shouted something in Hebrew. I couldn't understand what they said.

The men and women started to throw stones at us. We moved back to avoid being hit by the stones. After about an hour and a half passed, some twenty soldiers arrived. My uncle Musa, who is 53, said that, now that the soldiers arrived, the settlers won't harm us, and he went to pick olives on one of the trees. As soon as he started picking, about five settlers assaulted him and beat him with clubs. I ran to him and tried to move the settlers away, but they clubbed me as well. A sixteen-year-old settler threw a stone at me. I was facing him. We were less than five meters from each other. The stone hit me over my left eye. I felt great pain and became dizzy and fainted.

When I woke up, I found myself in the clinic of the Voluntary Health Association in Tekoa'. The physician was stitching my wound. I got four stitches. My brothers were there with me. My cousins, who were still in the olive grove on Roman Mountain , called my brothers and asked them to take me back to the grove because police officers were coming to investigate the incident.

When the doctor finished treating me, my brothers and I returned to the grove. The police took testimonies from some of the farmers. I was one of them. They asked us all to go home and they told me that they would call me as part of the continuing investigation. They have not contacted me in the meantime.

The soldiers did nothing to protect us from the settlers. Because of the settlers, this year, just like in past years, we have lost the harvest in this grove.

Fawzi Ibrahim Khalef Jabarin, 27, is a laborer and a resident of Tekoa', Bethlehem District. His testimony was given to Suha Zeid at the witness's house, on 29 October 2006.