Deir Ballut

Thursday, 7th April 2005

The Palestinian village of Deir Ballut in the West Bank to the west of Salfit, is close to the border with Israel. Yesterday four farmers were shot by security guards working for the builders of the wall which is to run a kilometre or so to the west of the village.

According to the mayor, the wall will cut off 1300 dunums (325 acres) of grazing land from the village. He said the Israeli Defence Forces had agreed with the villagers that the wall would be re-routed so that they would not lose so much land. However the army reneged on the agreement, so when the bulldozers started clearing land for the wall, five farmers remonstrated with the drivers. Without any warning shots, the security guards fired live ammunition at the farmers. One was shot in the chest, one in the lower abdomen, the third in the arm and the fourth in the leg.

The guards summoned the IDF and about 200 soldiers arrived. They arranged for two Israeli ambulances to take patients to an Israeli hospital, and a Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance took a patient to Ramallah. This morning men went to their land close to the route of the wall but were driven away. One man I met had pain on the left side of his chest where he had been hit with a rifle butt. Fortunately no ribs appeared to be broken.

In the same way that ‘security’ usually refers to the security of Israelis rather than of both Israelis and Palestinians, so ‘ceasefire’ seems to mean that there will be no killing or injuring of Jewish Israelis – attacks on Palestinians [including the shooting dead by the IDF of three 14-year-old boys playing football in Rafah on 9th April] being regarded as of little importance.

There have been a number of other acts of violence against the villagers of Deir Ballut. Last week a 14-year-old boy was shot in the foot with a “rubber bullet” – i.e. a metal bullet with a  rubber coating. No bones were broken. Another boy was wounded with a rubber bullet.

Recently a tomato greenhouse was set on fire by soldiers. As well as containing a crop of tomatoes, the greenhouse was used to store fertilizer, so the fire reached a very high temperature. Thirty people depended on the greenhouse for their livelihood. Eight months ago a warehouse in the village caught fire. It burned down completely while a fire engine was held at the checkpoint which one has to go through to get into or out of the village.

The winter before last, a woman was going to Ramallah in labour with twins. She was held up at this checkpoint in the cold and the wet for over 90 minutes and the first twin died 20 minutes later. The other twin died shortly after admission to hospital.

From the village we could see a number of new low buildings, like hangers, just across the Green Line in Israel. These are part of a very big US – not Israeli – arms depot, which in fact spans the Green Line close to the neighbouring Palestinian village of Rantis .

Not only is the wall making life progressively more difficult for West Bank communities, but settler violence has increased since Sharon gave notice of withdrawal from a few settlements. It will make those of you have visited the beautiful village of Yanoon, sad and angry to hear that the villagers there are getting an even harder time now from the settlers in Itamar.

Zionist racism is flourishing in Israel, an apartheid considerably more oppressive, say people who have known both, than the South African version. A British woman working with Palestinians told me that an Israeli army officer at a checkpoint, wanting to be helpful, asked her: “What’s the problem with the Kaffirs?”


Shot farmer in hospital (newspaper photo)

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