Palestine News: Closures and Testimonies

From B’Tselem:

Testimony: Settlers threaten and drive out Palestinians and foreign activists on their way to pick olives, October 2008

Kafa Shatiwi, 38

I live in the village of Kadum and am married to the head of the village council. We have a plot of land in Udla, about two kilometers southeast of the village and one and a half kilometers west of the Qedumim settlement. Settlers put up tents close to our plot, which lies next to Route 55. During the olive harvest, foreign activists usually join us, helping us pick and protecting us when necessary.

This morning [Monday, 20 October], I went with three activists from Britain to the plot. We traveled by taxi, going along Route 55, to a place not far from the plot, from where we intended to walk to the olive grove. It was 7:30. A settler stood two meters away from us. When he saw the taxi was slowing down to stop, he whistled and shouted something in Hebrew. Within a minute, many unarmed settlers, aged 20-40, appeared. Most were wearing black plants and white shirts and had skullcaps on their head. They came from the direction of the hill on which they had set up their tent, about two hundred meters from where we stopped.

The settlers came toward us. To protect ourselves, we remained inside the car. I didn’t see any policemen or soldiers in the area. They surrounded the taxi and we had no choice but to get out. When we got out, the settlers shouted and swore at us and kicked the vehicle. They made threatening motions with their hands. I felt that we will be in danger if we don’t leave.

The three foreign activists tried to convince the settlers to stop, but the settlers surrounded them, swore at them, and pushed them. The settlers forced me to get into the taxi, and the driver told me that if he didn’t leave, they would torch the vehicle. I asked him not to go so as not to leave the activists in the hands of the settlers. Some settlers kicked the taxi and others tried to prevent the activists from getting in.

After the activists managed to get into the taxi, we drove away. After we had gone about two hundred meters, the taxi stopped and the three activists and I got out. The taxi continued on its way. I called my husband and told him what happened. He immediately called the Palestinian coordination and liaison office, which called the Qedumim police.

Around 9:30, a large contingent of soldiers and police arrived. They declared the area a closed military area and didn’t let the foreign activists help us, primarily in areas close to the settlers’ tents. The settlers could move about wherever they wanted. The soldiers said it was a Jewish holiday and they didn’t want problems during the holidays.

We went and picked olives in a different area.

Kafa ‘Abd al-Karim Hamed Shatiwi, 38, married with nine children, is a homemaker and a resident of Kfar Qadum in Qalqiliya District. Her testimony was given to Ra’aed Moqdi on 20 October 2008 in the olive orchard.

From the Washington Post (via my mom!):

Blockade Forces Closure of U.N. Food Distribution Program in Gaza

By Linda Gradstein
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, November 14, 2008; 9:59 AM

JERUSALEM, Nov. 14 — The United Nations has shut down a food distribution program that feeds 750,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip after U.N. officials said their warehouses were empty and could not be restocked because of an Israeli blockade.

On the tenth day of an Israeli closure of Gaza’s borders, the area’s main power plant also ran out of fuel, and U.N. and other aid officials warned of mounting problems.

“Tomorrow when 20,000 people show up to get their rations, they will be told they have to wait until we can resupply,” John Ging, the senior U.N. official in Gaza, said in a telephone interview. “It is unprecedented that the UN is unable to get its supplies in to a population under such obvious distress.”

Israeli officials said the closure is a response to ongoing Palestinian rocket and mortar fire from Gaza into Israel.

Palestinian parliament member Jamal Khodari said that 80 percent of Gazans live under the poverty line and the average annual income per capita is two dollars a day.

“This is an illegal collective punishment, he said. “There is a shortage of medicines in the hospitals and the cutting of electricity is further pushing the situation deeper toward a crisis.”

Ahmed Abu Hamda, a Palestinian journalist in Gaza, said the Israeli closure was the main talk of Palestinians at Friday prayer in the mosques.

“People just feel hopeless, we don’t see any solution to this situation,” he said in a telephone interview. “They say, ‘what the hell is going on here, I just want to live.'”

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