Itamar settlers attack olive harvesters from Awarta, October 2002

Yasser Qawariq, farmer, age 41

Today, 22 October 2002, at around 7:00 in the morning, my family and I, went from our home towards our olive grove. Simultaneously, I saw about 30 additional families from the village also leaving their homes to head towards their olive groves in order to harvest olives. At around 9:00 in the morning a group of settlers from the Itamar settlement, which lies about one kilometer from the olive groves, began to shoot at us from the direction of the settlement. Since we were afraid of getting hurt we moved back a bit in the direction of the village until the shooting stopped.

Afterwards, we returned to the groves and began to harvest the olives. However, at around 9:30 in the morning a white Mitsubishi 4x4 arrived at the groves and eight people got out of it. I saw them at a distance of about 300 meters. They were armed and wore army uniforms. Some of them wore kippahs on their heads and some of them had beards. They looked like the same settlers that had shot at us earlier from the settlement. They began to shout at us and shot into the air intensively. I think that they fired some 500 rounds. It was scary.

The farmers ran from the field leaving behind them the tarpaulin straps, the ladders and tools they use in order to harvest the olives. When the armed settlers left the location, we returned again and continued to harvest the olives. At around 10:30 two cars from the Israeli District Coordination Office and the Civil Administration arrived accompanied by a truck of soldiers and two army jeeps. The soldiers got off the truck and the jeeps and began to shout at us and shoot into the air. They told us that we have five minutes to leave the area and whoever remains they will shoot. They forced us to leave the location and return to the village. As a result of all these incidents the village residents who went out today to their fields returned empty handed. They barely managed to take the amount of olives they could carry in their hands and return home.

The Itamar settlement lies only about one kilometer away from the olive groves. None of us bothered or disturbed the settlers, but they don't want to see us harvesting the olives. When we left the olive groves, I saw the settlers in the area called Khilat Salqun harvesting the olives belonging to Palestinian residents. I think they brought with them foreign workers to harvest the olives in the area of Khilat Salqun.

I have an additional plot of land that lies on the border of the settlement and about one thousand trees are planted there. However I cannot approach the land because I am afraid of the settlers. I earn my living from the olive harvest and I have no another job. Before the Intifada broke out I worked in Israel but today I rely only on the harvest in order to support my family. As of today I have managed to harvest only about one-fifth of my total crop.

Yasser Hasan Muhammad Qawariq, age 41, is married and the father of four. He works as a farmer and lives in 'Awarta. The testimony was taken by 'Ali Daraghme over the telephone, on 22 October, 2002.