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Israeli soldiers expel Beit Ummar family from their field at gunpoint

Feb. 20, 2016 4:05 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 21, 2016 3:45 P.M.)
HEBRON (Ma’an) -- Israeli soldiers on Saturday expelled Palestinian farmers at gunpoint from their private agricultural land in the outskirts of the town of Beit Ummar in the southern occupied West Bank, locals said.

Muhammad Abd al-Hamid Sleibi and his family were pruning trees in their field in Wadi Abu al-Reish area when Israeli soldiers approached them, local activist and committee spokesman Muhammad Ayyad Awad told Ma’an.

The soldiers pointed their guns at Sleibi and his family members, forcing them to take their things and leave their land.

Sleibi told Awad he had previously obtained an order from Israel’s High Court allowing him full access to his land, but Israeli Civil Administration officers who arrived with the armed soldiers told Sleibi that only one person could stay on the land at a time.

Sleibi then left alongside his family members, who he said fled the area “fearing for their lives.”

An Israeli army spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

Much of the outskirts of Beit Ummar village -- located around 10 kilometers north of the city of Hebron -- were designated as Area C following the Oslo Accords, and are under full civil and military control of Israel.

Palestinians must first receive permission from Israel’s Civil Administration to build on land in Area C, which is rarely granted. However, they are generally allowed to access cultivate their land, except in some cases when illegal Israeli settlements are located nearby.

Over 4,000 dunams (988 acres) of private Palestinian land in Beit Ummar has been reappropriated for the construction of illegal Israeli settlements and bypass roads.

Such confiscation has taken a heavy toll on the community, 60 percent of which make their livelihood working in agriculture.

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