11 Shot, 1 in Critical Condition After Settler Rampage

8 April 2009

settlers-smallSaffa, a village sandwiched between Sourif and Beit Ommar and home to just over 2000 residents, has been the site of overwhelming Israeli military and now settler violence in the last week. Using the death of a teenaged settler on April 2 as a precursor (there has been no evidence that he was killed by someone from Saffa or the nearby villages) the Israeli military has been invading Saffa, declaring curfews, searching homes and otherwise harassing the residents of the entire village in acts of blatant collective punishment for several days. Roadblocks were erected in several different places on April 3 and three homes were taken over by Israeli soldiers, allegedly to ‘protect’ the Palestinian residents from anticipated violence from right-wing extremist settlers from nearby Beit ‘Ayn.

These soldiers left a few days later and shortly after, on April 6, approximately 1 dozen settlers walked down from Beit ‘Ayn onto the agricultural land of Saffa and Beit Ommar. Residents from both villages went out to the land and the settlers quickly retreated back to the settlement. Soldiers arrived en masse, and, as was expected, they began to shoot tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets at the Palestinian residents who had come to protect their land. No one was injured at the time, but settlers were expected to return.

Today, April 8, just after 6am, more than 50 settlers, some of them armed, again entered the land of Saffa and began shooting and throwing stones at nearby Palestinian homes. Though soldiers are stationed next door in Eztion settlement, they did nothing to stop the attacks for quite some time. When they finally did arrive on the scene, they stood and watched as Israeli settlers continued to fire on the homes of Palestinians. A call over the local mosques in Beit Ommar and Sourif, both home to over 15,000 Palestinians, brought thousands of Palestinians out into the land to protect the residents of Saffa. Residents approached the edge of the settlement and began by sitting on the land facing the soldiers, preventing them from entering the village.

Soldiers then began attacking the Palestinians indiscriminately, shooting 11 with live ammunition, including one, Tha’er ‘Aadi, in the neck. He is currently in critical condition in a hospital in Ramallah. The other 10 were shot in the legs and arms and were treated in the hospital in Hebron. Additionally, more than a dozen were shot with rubber-coated steel bullets throughout the 10 hours of military incursion. The use of live ammunition, even when less lethal forms of weaponry was available, against unarmed Palestinians has been an ever increasing concern for the residents of Beit Ommar, who had seen two teenagers killed and two teens in critical condition in the last year after being shot with live ammunition.