Palestinian farmland exploited for Israeli military exercises
Monday May 21 is the third day in a row of Israeli military exercises in and around the small Palestinian village of Khirbet Atwayel outside Nablus. These exercises prevent the farmers from working on their lands and force the villagers to sleep under the sound of heavy shelling with the constant presence of soldiers.
Khirbet Atweyel is a village located on the slopes West of the Jordan valley. The 18 families that reside there are almost exclusively farmers and have been victims to the actions of the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) for a long time.
Every month, Israeli soldiers arrive, erect tents, and stay for a few days while they receive various kinds of military training. These include the shooting of live rounds, rocket missiles, and other heavy artillery. During these days, the farmers are denied entry to their own lands and can only stand aside and watch while soldiers drive their jeeps and other vehicles over the fields.
Volunteers with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), together with members of the municipality of the nearby town of Aqraba, approached the village on Monday, May 21.
“As usual, the soldiers stop their activities when they see internationals in the village. Only ten minutes ago they were shooting rockets on the hills a couple of hundred meters from the town’s houses,” Basem, the mayor of Khirbet Atwayel says.
Later, whilst two ISM activists attempted to approach the field in order to better photograph the military tents, Israeli soldiers opened fire nearby. The activists were forced to turn around and flee the way they came. A rocket was fired on an adjacent hill, creating an ear piercing bang.
“These rockets are the kind of weapons they usually shoot at night. If you come here between 10-11 p.m. you will find they shoot dozens, making it impossible to sleep,” Basem says.
The military training, however, is only one of many aspects of oppression that the people of Khirbet Atwayel suffer on a daily basis. Like many other villages in the Jordan valley, Khirbet Atwayel is in Area C. It is under full Israeli civil and military control. One result is that the villagers are not allowed to have wells or water cisterns. Instead, they are forced to buy water from Aqraba and transport it in tanks to their houses. This makes the basic necessity of water enormously expensive. Irrigation of crops has become impossible and farmers are left to hope that the winter will bring enough rain.
When asked for his thoughts about the future of his village, Basem replied, “the occupiers are obviously trying to get rid of us, but we were born in this village and this land has been within our families for generations. We will never leave and give up what is rightfully ours.”
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