The Israeli campaign of fear and vandalism against the West Bank village of Awarta continues.
A home in Awarta after a search by IsraHelli soldiers
The village is under curfew and a military jeep blocked the main entrance. I arrived at 3pm together with Zakaria, and we found an alternative way to enter the village.
The first visit we conducted was in the municipality building. The head of the local municipality was there, together with local activists, all of whom described the situation in the village since the murder in the settlement of Itamar.
Several facts about the village and various events, as relayed by village residents.
The village has a population of 6,000, with some 1,200 families. It borders on the settlement of Itamar. Several of the olive tree plots are adjacent to the settlement while others are imprisoned behind the settlement’s security fence. According to the residents, hundreds of dunams of land were confiscated for the construction of Itamar.
Since the murder in Itamar last month, Israeli security forces have focused their investigations on the village of Awarta. Tens of men and women from the village were detained for interrogations, conducted roughly and with threats. In several of the detentions, accusations were made about participation in the murder in an attempt to get information about the perpetrators. One of them, A., an 80 year old woman with physical disabilities, was accused by the interrogators of no less than murder. More than 20 village residents are still detained by Israel.
In response to the question of why the searches are focusing on their village, the municipal head responded that the army is preparing the ground for confiscation of more than 1,000 dunams of land planted with olive trees located next to the settlement.
The army invaded almost every home in the village and commandeered several. Searches are also being conducted in the fields and olive tree groves.
The searches are being conducted through infliction of extensive property damage. Widespread use is being made of stun grenades and the throwing of stones during the searches and a curfew has been imposed on the village, with entrances and exits blocked. Schools, public institutions and businesses are also closed. A curfew and searches are conducted several times each week.
Today searches were conducted in four homes employing vandalism, destruction and detentions of family members.
Village residents vehemently disavow any connection to the murder and contend they are victims of the most brutal collective punishment.
Following the meeting in the municipality we conducted a visit in two of the four homes that were invaded this morning.
The horror that we saw with our own eyes in the home of Mahmoud Awad cannot be described as anything but a pogrom, primate and brutal vengeance intended solely to impose fear in the heart of the residents.
All rooms in the home were turned upside down. Most of the furniture and electronic equipment was broken. Food from the kitchen was dumped on the floor and on it a large vat of oil was poured.
The mother of the family, Shama and the children Majd, 14 years old and Alaa, 6 years old, who were not detained, related that the army’s invasion of their home began at 4am and ended around 11am. Family members were dragged out of their beds and not permitted to bring warm clothing or blankets. A soldier who saw the little girl trying to shield herself from the cold ripped the blanket away from her. Alaa relates that “they took my blanket and I was very cold and afraid, and waited outside until the soldiers left. Majd notes that “I was handcuffed, my eyes were covered and they beat me. All in all I’m a little boy, what did I do wrong?”
The father of the family, Mahmoud, 45 years old, the son Majdi, aged 20, a third year university student and the son Amjad, 19 years old, a first year university student and the son Hakhem, 17 years old, were detained. Their cousin Ayman, 21 years old, was also detained. The mother claims that soldiers took 2,500 Jordanian dinars from a drawer and 5 mobile phones. The mother looked broken, in shock and in deep grief. The fear and terror had not yet left her eyes.
The second visit was to the home of their relatives, the home of Iman and Hassan Awad. The parents have two girls – Yasmin, 4.5 years old and her sister Sanaa, 1.5 years old. Destruction of the family’s home was less extensive. The father Hassan was detained for interrogation.
The mother’s sister, Sanaa, told us with sarcasm that “the soldiers have yet to visit us”.
No wonder that a news blackout is being enforced against everything happening in the village. Under this blackout it is possible to do everything without oversight.
*Yaakov Manor is a leading left-wing activist in Israel.
Translated to English by the Alternative Information Center (AIC).