Saffa Damage Update: PA Promises to Help as Full Impact of Fire Assessed

22 July 2009

On Tuesday July 21, 2009, the Beit Ommar Municipality held a meeting with the Palestinian Authority (PA) Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Ismail Da’iq, to present updated information on the recent and ongoing of farmland in the Saffa area of Beit Ommar village, and discuss possible remedies that the PA can provide or assist with. The meeting was one in a series of meetings to assess the impact on farmland and farmers in land in and around the Bethlehem area.

In attendance was Beit Ommar Mayor Nasri Sabarneh, Beit Ommar municipality council members, along with representatives of the Soleiby family whom own affected land in the Saffa area and members of Palestine Solidarity Project. Minister Da’iq, said he had been closely following and working on land issues in Beit Ommar as minister and fully supported the resistance against the settlements. He also promised PA assistance in replanting trees, though he gave no timeline and the Soleiby brothers remain skeptical, citing years of requests for PA intervention on their behalf with no result. After a short presentation summarizing the chain of settler attacks on Saffa in the recent past, culminating in the 150 dunnum of land set fire to on July 12th, the minster was given a brief tour of the aforementioned land in Saffa by the Mayor and Soleiby brothers. Hamad Soleiby explained that he had attempted to reach the destroyed trees earlier in the day, as there was still uncertainty over the extent of trees lost, but feared attack from Bat Ayn settlers whom were steadily approaching.

International activists accompanied farmers the following day, July 22, 2009, in order to gain access to the affected land, document and get a clear estimate of the damage done. The assessment was grim, as over 300 fruit trees had been destroyed, including grape vines, plum, fig and grape trees. The documentation was cut short as three jeeps of soldiers arrived thirty minutes after the group arrived.