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UK charity Oxfam concerned over apparent attack

Oct. 29, 2009 2:39 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 1, 2009 11:06 A.M.)
Hebron – Ma'an – The British humanitarian aid group Oxfam International is investigating reports that Israeli forces in Hebron may have intentionally destroyed an EU-funded water reservoir built by the charity.

"We understand that beneficiaries have been attacked, as well as the water system, and that networks were destroyed," Oxfam spokesman Michael Bailey told Ma'an on Thursday. "We are very concerned for the farmers, who have lost every important source of income."

Bailey added that the organization was "following these reports closely," but could not immediately confirm that Israel's army had destroyed the EU-funded infrastructure.

But locals told Ma'an earlier on Thursday that ten Palestinians, including a 70-year-old woman, seven women and two journalists, were attacked by Israeli forces south of Hebron during the course of the demolition.

Reports from the Israeli settler news agency Arutz Sheva quoted a right-wing activist bragging that the infrastructure, which he said was built by Oxfam and funded by the EU, was ripped apart due to its proximity to a Hebron settlement.

"Among the structures destroyed were several built with money from the European Union-funded organization Oxfam," said the report, which quoted the settler activist saying local Palestinians, who "had been given money by Oxfam to improve the water supply in their village," had built on land "owned" by the illegal Israeli settlement of Kiryat Arba.

The incident apparently began when Israeli soldiers and armored vehicles demolished a water reservoir belonging to Al-Baqa'a resident Mohammad Mustafa Jaber. His family said a bulldozer also destroyed irrigation networks used for crops.

In an attempt to stop the demolition, the family notified the press and tried to block the demolition crew as it approached, according to residents. Soldiers responded by beating the family members and two journalists who responded to the scene, they said.

An eyewitness said soldiers kicked and hit the residents and journalists with army rifle butts and batons.

The two injured journalists, identified by medics as Abed Al-Hafith Al-Hashlamun with the European Press Agency (EPA) and Najeh Al-Hashlamun of "ABA," were reportedly injured as they attempted to document the demolition and subsequent attacks.

Seven of the injured residents were identified as:

Mari Jaber

Najah Jaber

Kawkab Jaber

Rudeina Jaber

Najah Fadel Jaber

Ibtesam Rashed Jaber

Izdehar Falah Jaber

Amenah Jaber, 70

Approached by Ma'an, an Israeli spokesperson confirmed that an "illegal water foundation" was demolished, but refused further comment. A spokesman for Israel's Civil Administration had no immediate comment.

On Saturday, the Palestinian center for land research issued a statement condemning the actions, explaining that the Israeli bulldozers had destroyed ten dumums of land and destroyed water infrastructure that was used to irrigate another 17 dunums of agricultural land planted with vegetables.

The organization interviewed one of the land's residents, Rudeina Jaber, who said a female soldier hit her with a baton and rifle butts.

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