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Israeli forces assault Palestinians, international activists in Sarura protest camp

May 25, 2017 9:05 P.M. (Updated: May 29, 2017 6:01 P.M.)
HEBRON (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces assaulted several international activists and a 55-year-old Palestinian man on Thursday in the Sarura protest camp near the village of Yatta in the Southern Hebron Hills of the occupied West Bank, days after Israeli forces raided and attempted to destroy the camp.

Coordinator of National and Popular Committees in the southern West bank Ratib Jabour told Ma’an that Israeli forces raided the camp, demolished a tent, and assaulted a number of international activists, who sustained minor injuries.

Coordinator for Hebron-based Youth Against Settlements (YAS) Issa Amro told Ma’an that Israeli forces raided Sarura around 11 a.m. and ripped down a tent that had been re-erected after forces conducted a similar raid on Saturday night.

According to Amro, during Thursday’s raid, Israeli forces destroyed the tent, confiscated equipment and building materials, and attacked Canadian Jewish activists, as well as a 55-year-old Palestinian man from Sarura, who had to be evacuated to a hospital in Yatta for medical treatment.

Amro added that Israeli forces “intimidated” Palestinian children in the area, and threatened activists, telling them not to continue their work at the camp.

“We will rebuild Sarura and we will not give up until all the families return to their village, and until all Palestinians can live safely in their homes,” Amro said.

The protest camp has been established and populated with local Palestinians and international Jewish activists in recent days in an attempt to restore the depopulated Palestinian community of Sarura, whose residents were expelled by Israeli forces between 1980 and 1998.

In response to a request for comment, a spokesperson for COGAT, the Israeli agency responsible for implementing Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian territory, said that "The constructions adjacent to Maon farm were illegal built (sic) and therefore were caught this morning for the second time this week." Maon is one of the illegal Israeli settlements surrounding Sarura.

The spokesperson added: "We would like to emphasize that the land in question is a military firing zone, where entry is forbidden."

The Palestinian community of Sarura is located in the Masafer Yatta area of the South Hebron Hills. The residents of Sarura, along with several other villages in the area, were expelled from their lands between 1980 and 1999 owing to Israeli military orders and threats of settler attacks, according to the Applied Research Institute - Jerusalem (ARIJ), a Bethlehem-based research center.

The communities are located in Area C -- the more than 60 percent of the West Bank under Israeli military control. Palestinians are not permitted to build in Area C without nearly impossible to obtain Israeli-issued building permits.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Israeli authorities have declared thousands of dunams of lands in the area as Israeli “state land” since the 1970s, and leased the land to the World Zionist Organization, which in turn allotted the land for the development of Israeli settlements.

In 1999, the expulsion of the communities was fast tracked after the Israeli army declared the area a “Firing Zone,” and evicted the residents from their homes and prevented their access to the land, OCHA reported, adding that Israeli authorities have maintained that the families were seasonal dwellers, and not permanent residents, and therefore were residing on the lands illegally.

According to Amro, activists have been assisting the expelled residents in developing infrastructure in the area and restoring the natural caves that had once served as their shelter.

They also provide protection to the residents from settler attacks, and have helped the residents access their lands that have been off-limits to them for nearly two decades.

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