Report from Palestine: Soldiers detain herb-gathering children at gunpoint

Cassandra Dixon, of WNPJ member group Mary House near Wisconsin Dells, reports from Tuwani, Palestine:

Hi Friends -- I hope you are well.  Life continues to be busy and challenging for everyone here in Tuwani.  Two days ago three boys from the village were detained by soldiers while they were trying to harvest herbs on the family land of one of the boys.  This is the season for many native plants here -- they're each available in a short window of time during the brief  spring season here, before everything becomes too dry to grow or be useful as food. 
The land the boys were on is adjacent to the Israeli settlement of Ma'on, and villagers in Tuwani believe settlers from Ma'on and adjacent outpost would like to expand onto it.  Shepherds are often forced off the area with their sheep, and settlers frequently intimidate, scare and chase people off while they gather spring herbs. 
 
It's shocking to watch soldiers chase down children, unlocking and pointing M-16'w at them, and forcing them to kneel in the road while they decide what to do with them.  The boys were released on a nearby hill nearer to the settlement and ran back to the village, and you could say they are "unharmed". They, and we, were very relieved.   But if they'd been my boys?  I wouldn't be saying they were unharmed at all.
 
Here's a  new release on the event --but it's a commemt on life here that we sent this release only to the yahoo group that we send information to regularly -- not to the media.  It's a common enough event, and none of the damage done to the children produced blood.  They were only detained, not arrested, and their trauma isn't actually newsworthy.
 
Hope you're all well, and maybe enjoying some early spring days.  Thanks as always for thinking of the people here!!  cassandra
 

Earlier report from Cassandra

RELEASE:

AT-TUWANI: Three children detained while gathering herbs

6 March, 2010

 

On 6 March, 2010, Israeli soldiers detained three Palestinian boys in At-Tuwani Village in the South Hebron Hills of the West Bank. The boys, aged 13 and 14, were gathering herbs above al-Khelli Valley, 300 meters from the Israeli settlement of Ma'on, on land owned by the eldest child's family. At 10:30 am, members of Operation Dove* were accompanying the children and saw soldiers drive a jeep onto the hillside.


Three soldiers ran toward the children, grabbed the shears they were using on the plants, pushed them up to the jeep and forced them onto their knees for ten minutes. The security guard of Ma'on Settlement arrived, and the soldiers forced two of the children into the jeep. When the third boy attempted to run away, a soldier chased him across his family's land. The soldier cocked his M16 and aimed it at the boy, who stopped immediately. Soldiers then forced this boy into the jeep and took all three away from the scene.


Fifteen minutes later, members of Operation Dove saw the three children running down a hillside toward them. The boys said the soldiers took them across Israeli highway 317, which passes At-Tuwani and Ma'on, drove them into the hills and released them.


The privately owned Al-Khelli area of At-Tuwani borders Ma'on Settlement and the Havat Ma'on illegal settlement outpost**. Israeli settlers and occupation authorities frequently disturb agricultural work there, which residents say indicates an organized effort to close the land to its Palestinian owners.


Since the beginning of February, 2010, international accompaniers from Operation Dove and Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) have witnessed increasing incidents of Palestinian land closure in the South Hebron Hills. They have seen Palestinian shepherds detained and arrested by the Israeli military, and attacked by Israeli settlers.


*Operation Dove and CPT together maintain a continuous presence in the South Hebron Hills to accompany Palestinian victims of violence and intimidation.

Operation Dove's web site is www.operationdove.org.
Link to photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/22236486@N06/