Um Salamuna Blocks Bulldozers

27 February 2007

Over 40 Palestinians from Um Salamuna and Wadi An Nis, joined by PSP Palestinian and international activists, gathered yesterday to resist the bulldozing of their land by the Israeli Occupation Forces in preparation for the Annexation Wall. A group made up of mostly older men and women non-violently blocked three bulldozers from uprooting their olive groves. The IOF used extreme force, beating men and women with rifle butts and wooden and metal batons to move them away from the bulldozers.

The head of the city council, Mahmoud Takatka and his son, Rashid Mahmoud Takatka, were arrested for attempting to stop the bulldozers from destroying their family’s grove. Rashid was badly beaten and was bleeding from his mouth and his nose. Soldiers dragged both of them to the back of a military jeep and took them to an unknown location.

Another man from the same family, Hussein Musa Takatka, 55, was also beaten severely with rifle butts and batons by several soldiers. He was given an I.V. on the spot by Palestinian medics and taken to the hospital in Betlehem.

Most of the people were herded behind a line of 15-20 soldiers who separated the people from their land. Suddenly, the IOF claimed that someone had stolen a set of binoculars. For over an hour the people were not allowed to leave the area. The soldiers ordered the men to take off their jackets and pull out their pockets. They made all of the men and young male children move through a makeshift ‘checkpoint’ –a long line of soldiers on either side—lifting their shirts and taking off jackets. The soldiers informed the group that if they did not find the binoculars everyone in the area, including small children and elderly men and women, would be arrested.

After a special commander was called, two soldiers pointed out one man, Mohammed Takatka, 20, who was then dragged across the bulldozed area and behind a mound of dirt where he was thrown to the ground and beaten. The IOF suggested that he had stolen the binoculars. Soldiers prevented international activists from approaching the man to determine his condition. He was interrogated by a number of soldiers and then blindfolded and taken to the back of a jeep. After less than 15 minutes he was released, having obviously not taken the binoculars.

Tomorrow the people intend to again go to the bulldozers to prevent the utter destruction of their land, their trees and their way of life.