20 Farmers, Family Members Detained While Working Their Land in Saffa

8 April 2011

On the evening of Friday, April 8th, Israel Defense Forces detained about twenty members of the Aady family of Beit Ommar. The family had planted three olive trees on their land in the Safa Valley (near Bat Ayn settlement) when members of the IDF arrived and informed them that the entire valley was a Closed Military Zone. At 5:30 pm, soldiers forced the planting to end, and refused to allow the family to leave.

The entire Aady family was held in Safa for roughly an hour before more members of the IDF and Civil Administration arrived in two jeeps. The newly arrived military personnel began arguing with the farmers. Several members of the family began returning towards their land, where they had left a group of bagged olive saplings, stakes, and plastic sleeves. The soldiers followed them, and attempted to arrest them as the Palestinians tried to stake the three previously planted trees upright. Palestine Solidarity Project activists successfully intervened, and ultimately, no arrests were made.

Israel Defense Forces herded the civilians back towards the village. When family members tried to collect their saplings, stakes, and plastic, the soldiers stopped them. In the end, the stakes and saplings were left behind, but the plastic was allowed to leave.

By this time, two Israeli solidarity activists had arrived at the scene. The soldiers collected all civilians and showed the orders designating the Safa Valley a Closed Military Zone until Sunday. The soldier in charge explained that he would return then, with another order declaring the valley off-limits to the farmers.

Finally, two hours after the family was originally detained, the IDF forced the farmers to leave their land. All military personnel withdrew to their jeeps along the valley floor. Several village children that had been jeering the soldiers from higher terraces began tossing rocks; the soldiers shot tear gas at them and made a half-hearted, two-man assault up the valley slope before returning to their vehicles. The two jeeps left through Beit Ommar, with three soldiers walking back through Safa towards the Bat Ayn settlement.

The Safa Valley has been under repeated Closed Military Zone orders since April of 2009. Since then, farmers with land in the region have consistently risked violence and arrest to cultivate their fields.