Wadi Qana, Salfit District: Settlers escorted by military lead herd of cattle through cultivated fields and attack farmers. Soldiers fire in the air, drive out farmers, and one attacks farmer
On Sunday, 23 May 2021, at around 6:00 P.M., about 15 settlers, escorted by about five soldiers, led a herd of some 60 cows from east to west through Wadi Qana, a fertile valley with cultivated farmland belonging to residents of Deir Istiya and other villages, which Israel is trying to take over.
Some farmers who were in the area noticed the settlers and alerted other farmers from Deir Istiya, who own citrus groves in the valley. After the cows began grazing on tree leaves, a verbal altercation developed between the farmers and the settlers and soldiers. As the altercation escalated, settlers attacked farmers with a club and pepper-spray. In addition, a soldier hit one of the farmers attacked by the settlers with his rifle butt. Meanwhile, more settlers and soldiers arrived, along with Israeli police officers. The soldiers fired in the air, detained the farmers, except for those requiring medical treatment, and blocked the entrance to the valley for Palestinians, allowing the settlers to continue leading the cows through it until they reached the other side in the evening hours.
Three of the farmers required medical care at a hospital.
The military did not allow the other farmers to leave the area until late at night, at which point four of them discovered settlers had vandalized their cars. The windshields of two cars had been smashed and the tires of these and two other cars were damaged. The car owners had to use a tow truck to remove them from the area.
B’Tselem field researcher Abdulkarim Sadi collected testimonies from three of the farmers who were present, all residents of Deir Istiya:
In his testimony, Nassim Mansur (52), a father of five, recalled how a settler attacked him:
We were working the land, and other farmers were working in the plots next to us. Suddenly, a group of settlers showed up with their herd, and the cows started grazing on our land. We called residents to come and defend the land. The other farmers and I started driving the cows away from our land, and then one of the settlers hit me with a wooden club on my left arm. My arm hurt a lot, and I backed away from there. Later, the other farmers drove me to the hospital in Salfit, where it turned out that I had bruises and a torn tendon.
Bilal Mansur (46), a father of five, described in his testimony what unfolded when he arrived at the scene:
At 6:30 P.M., one of the villagers called me and said that I needed to come to my land because settlers were grazing their herd there. My sons, Khader (21) and Islam (17), and I got into our car immediately and drove to the valley.
When we got there, we saw about 15 settlers, a military jeep, about five soldiers, and a herd of dozens of cattle head. I pulled over and we got out to check what was going on and why they were grazing their cattle there. But as soon as we went over, a settler armed with a club started attacking my two sons. I tried to defend them and fend him off, but another settler pepper-sprayed me in the face when I approached him. It burned a lot. I couldn’t see anything and had trouble breathing. The soldiers didn’t do anything to protect us, of course. They just fired in the air to drive us away.
I fell to the ground, and the residents who were there put me in their car and took me to the hospital. On the way, at the entrance to ‘Azzun, they transferred me to an ambulance, where there were two other farmers who’d been pepper-sprayed by the settlers. The ambulance took us to Darwish Nazal Hospital in Qalqiliyah.
Later that night, my sons returned to the valley with a tow truck and brought our car back from there, after the settlers smashed its windshield and punctured all of its tires.
In his testimony, Sai’d Zidan (65), head of the Deir Istiya council and father of four, recounted:
When I got to the valley, I saw about 15 settlers, five soldiers, and a herd of about 60 cows who started grazing on the trees. The other farmers and I tried talking with the soldiers, but a settler with a club approached us and immediately attacked me, hitting me with the club on the shoulder. Another settler pepper-sprayed me in the face, even though the soldiers were standing around us. It was clear they were only there to protect the settlers. I fell to the ground and started screaming in pain. Then I managed to get to my feet and shouted at the soldiers. Then mutual shouting started between the soldiers and the farmers, who protested the soldiers and the settlers’ behavior, and one of the soldiers hit me on the head with his rifle butt. I felt dizzy and fell to the ground again. Meanwhile, more settlers, soldiers, and police officers arrived. The military closed off the area and prevented more farmers from accessing it. The settlers also pepper-sprayed other farmers, and we were all taken from there to hospitals.