'Azzun, 'Einabus, Burin (Yitzhar), Huwwara

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Ruth Bar Zohar, Tamar Sobarn, Anna Schidler, Naomi Ben-Tzur (reporting) Translator: Louise Levi

Following a report in the press about armed patrols on road 60 from Jit to Huwwara,  initiated by the settlers in Yitzhar, and the harassment of Palestinian villages on the weekend, we drive into the area to find out how this new militia operates ( an "appropriate Zionist response" to the weakness of the army??), and whether the settlers in Yitzhar were involved in the weekend events.

9:15  Leaving the train station in Rosh HaAyin.

We drive along road 55. At this time of the year, The West Bank is extremely beautiful with its pastoral views, small plots of cultivated land intertwined with green stretches and blooming trees on both sides of the road.

The entrance to Azun is not blocked. But opposite us on the other side of the road, an armed army Jeep is parking. There is little traffic from the Jit junction towards Huwwara. A stuck van is parking on the side of the road. Some young tourists are waiting for another car in order to continue their trip. An army Jeep is driving towards the Jit junction.

We see the first sign of the settlers' new initiative on the driveway leading into Yitzhar from the main road: two armed settlers , a live road block, are posted by a private SUV.

Nadim initiates a meeting with M., our friend from Burin, and we drive to meet him near the school, which have turned into a target both for the army and the settlers from Yitzhar. M. informs us about the on-goings in the area.

300 children aged 8-18 are learning at the school, which is located at some distance from the houses in the village. Its windows are closed with iron shutters. We see the children playing quietly in a wide yard surrounded by a concrete fence with a netted fence on top. However, these children are the enemy, and the enemy has to be fought. Soldiers arrive and throw stun grenades into the school claiming that the children have been throwing stones at them. This has been going on since the beginning of the school year. Last week, the security coordinator in Yitzhar outdid himself when shooting tear gas at the children. Army representatives have even threatened to close the school.

Last Thursday the settlers from Yitzhar inaugurated their new militia. On Friday a TV team arrived at the settlement. In front of the cameras, the settlers explained why they have to perform their own patrols: The risk of death has risen, since the school children don't make do with stones. Now they are throwing Molotov cocktails at the settlers! No less.

This is how the settlers in Yitzhar spent their weekend:

Thursday: 13 acres (53 dunams) of cultivated land separate between the school and the settlement. The people from Yitzhar enter this area, hide among the trees and watch the road from there.

Friday:  One step further – They go down the hill and attack a farmer working in his field. They break his leg and arm with an iron bar. Soldiers arriving at the spot are watching, but as usual, they don't intervene. Now the injured man is hospitalized.

Sabbath: On the morning of the holy Sabbath, after having prayed with great intent and having observed all the Sabbath commandments meticulously, they set out, dressed in white, to fulfill the most important commandment of all –the abuse of their Palestinian neighbors. For a change, since time is plentiful, they are going south towards Einabus.

A shepherd and his son leading their sheep are an easy prey. The attackers divide the tasks between them: Some steal a number of sheep and run away. As we know, stealing on a Sabbath means fulfilling a most holy commandment. Two others attack the boy, hit him and make him fall. One of them puts him on his back and starts to run towards Yitzhar. At the last moment, some young men from the village arrive. They release the terrified boy and return the stolen sheep to their owner.

While listening to the description of these events, we notice a private Jeep parking on the side of the driveway. Two settlers are standing nearby.  After a moment they enter the car and drive towards the road. The patrol of the settlers' militia is on the way to its mission.

On our way back we pass through Huwwara. There is much traffic is on the road. The entrance to Beita is blocked, but two army vehicles are parking there. At the Tapuah junction Israeli policemen stop three cars with Palestinian numbers. The fines that the car owners will have to pay will be a welcome addition to the budget of the police force. Yes, Israel's police force is very efficient both inside and outside the Green Line.

11:30 Back to Rosh HaAyin