400 Trees Planted Near Karmei Tsur Settlement, Israeli Military Retaliates

11 February 2010

On Wednesday, February 10, more than 50 international volunteers with the YMCA along with a group of Israeli activists joined 20 Palestinians in a coordinated tree-planting for 4 farmers who own land near the Karmei Tsur settlement. The action was organized by PSP, the Beit Ommar Center for Freedom and Justice, and the newly re-formed Beit Ommar Popular Committee and was designed to plant 400 trees on land that is threatened with confiscation as the Karmei Tsur settlement continues its plans to extend its “security perimeter” further onto privately-owned Palestinian land.

In 2006, these four farmers, Hamad Soleiby, Hossam Bahar, Mousa Abu Maria and Mohammed Awwad all lost access to significant portions of their land when the Israeli military, on behalf of the settlement, built a secondary perimeter fence well onto Palestinian agricultural land. Though technically the Palestinian farmers still have legal rights to the land behind the fence, none of these farmers have been allowed to access it since the completion of the fence in the fall of 2006.

Recently, settlers and the Israeli military have been trying to prevent farmers from accessing their land still on the “Palestinian side” of the fence, by attacking or threatening the landowners if they come anywhere near the fence. It was for this reason that the large contingency of internationals, Israelis, and Palestinians planted 400 trees in this area. While planting on the land of Mousa Abu Maria, co-founder of the Palestine Solidarity Project, the Israeli military approached the group from the opposite side of the fence and attempted to disperse the planters with sound and smoke grenades. The group was not deterred, finished the planting and then returned to a farmer’s house at the edge of the village for a group lunch.

But as so often happens in Beit Ommar, when even the most non-threatening of actions take place which nonetheless challenge Israeli control of the land, the Israeli military felt it necessary to demonstrate a show of force. 3 jeeps entered Beit Ommar from the settlement and parked near the house that the international and Israeli activists had just left after lunch. When landowner and PSP spokesperson Mohammed Awwad went into the street to film the invasion, soldiers fired one rubber-coated steel bullet directly at Mohammed, hitting him in the foot from short range, breaking his foot.

Mohammed Awwad, with Popular Committee members. An Israeli soldier shot him in the foot with a rubber-coated steel bullet, breaking it