Settlers escorted by soldiers drive farmers out of their land and vandalize their property, Burin, Nablus District, 23 Nov. 2020
In the early morning hours of Monday, 23 November 2020, nine members of the ‘Umran family set out to plant and sow fruit and vegetables. The adults were joined by five children, ranging in age from two to 15, and they went together to their plot that stretches about five dunams south of Burin. At around 10:00 P.M., while work was in progress, three soldiers came from the direction of the nearby military watchtower and asked the family if they had seen young men throwing stones at the road. The family members replied negatively. The soldiers stayed in the area for several minutes and then left.
About 10 minutes later, around seven settlers arrived along with the same three soldiers. The settlers, some of whom were armed with handguns, began yelling and cursing at the family. They claimed that the father, Yasser ‘Umran (39), was the one who had thrown stones at the road. The soldiers ordered the family to leave the plot, and then the settlers started scattering the seeds, uprooting seedlings, and destroying the family’s property. They also destroyed food, books, and clothes the family members had brought with them. The family was forced to move from their land to a nearby plot, where they waited for about an hour until the settlers and the soldiers left. When they returned to their plot, they discovered the extent of the destruction the settlers had left behind. At that point, a military jeep arrived and stayed in the area until the family went home at around 4:00 P.M.
In a testimony she gave B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i, Suha ‘Umran (37), a married mother of eight from Burin, recounted:
We planted fig, plum, and loquat seedlings. About a week ago, we plowed the land, and on Monday, we came there to sow beans, garlic, onion, potatoes, and strawberries. We hoped the crops would provide us with extra income because since the coronavirus started, my husband’s income from his work as a barber has really gone down.
My sister-in-law Najwa (52) and her son’ Iz a-Din came with us. We were in the middle of work, and I was about to make some tea, when three soldiers arrived from the nearby watchtower. They spoke in Hebrew with my husband, and later I understood that they’d claimed there were stone-throwers in the area, and they asked if we’d seen them. About 15 minutes later, the soldiers left, and we continued working. Ten minutes after that, the soldiers came back with seven to 10 settlers, who started yelling at us. They all wore masks, and some of them had guns in their belts. They cursed at us in Hebrew, but I understood when they said, “Son of a bitch.”
My husband, who knows Hebrew, told me later that the settlers accused him of throwing stones at the road.
My daughter Rimal (2), who I was holding, started crying and screaming out of fear, and so did my son al-‘Uqab (5) and my daughter ‘Abir (4). I tried to calm them down and told them to get away, but they didn’t want to go without me, and I didn’t want to leave my husband there alone, surrounded by settlers.
The soldiers demanded again and again that we leave. Some of the settlers started taking our belongings and throwing them all over. They also scattered some of the seeds we’d brought with us, our food and drink, and the schoolbags the children brought to do homework and study for exams. The settlers also tore the children’s schoolbooks. They even threw our mats on the road. One settler emptied our teapot on the campfire, and when I asked him why he did that, he made a throat-slitting gesture.
Meanwhile, my husband and my nephew ‘Iz a-Din argued with the settlers and refused to leave. My husband tried to explain to them that we were on our land and that we weren’t responsible for what was happening on the road. But they wouldn’t listen, and, in the end, we drew back to a neighboring plot. The settlers kept throwing and destroying everything.
We stood and watched what the settlers and the soldiers were doing on our land. After they left, we came back to the plot, and what we saw there was truly sad. Nothing was left intact. They destroyed everything. They even broke the new seedlings we’d planted. I found some of Rimal’s clothes in a nearby thorn field. The settlers also stole two hoes, a pick-ax, and a rake. We gathered what we could save and replanted the seeds. At one point, a military jeep arrived and stayed in the area until we went home, at around 4:00 P.M.
When we came home, the kids were still in shock. Adam couldn’t study for the test he had. He just kept staring at the book the settlers had torn. ‘Abir told me, “I’m afraid the soldiers will take you and put you in jail.” The incident really affected them. I even heard them talking in their sleep, and they woke up several times at night. The next day, I walked them to school and bought them new books.
In a testimony she gave B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i, Najwa ‘Umran (52), a married mother of eight from Nablus, also described the incident:
Usually, we don’t encounter any problems when we go to our land. Soldiers often arrive and ask us what we’re doing there, and we reply that we’re working our land, and they don’t do anything. What happened this time was unbelievable.
Until the soldiers and the settlers arrived, we enjoyed nature and the beautiful weather. We worked, talked, and laughed together.
I didn’t really understand what they wanted, if our presence there just bothered them or if someone had really thrown stones at them as the military claimed. We didn’t see anything like that. The area we were in was completely quiet, and traffic on the Yitzhar road flowed normally.
I got so mad when I saw the settlers destroying everything, but I held back so my son and my brother wouldn’t get upset, too. Instead, I told them, “Let them do what they want. The most important thing is that you’re safe and sound. The rest can be replaced.” I wanted to calm them down because we had no choice but to be patient. After all, the military protects the settlers and does nothing for us.