By Amira Hass | Dec. 22, 2013
On commander’s orders, group that came to protect Palestinian farmers was turned back at border.
Soldiers prevented activists from Ta’ayush Arab-Jewish Partnership from entering the West Bank on Saturday, by order of the regional commander. For 13 years members of Ta’ayush have been accompanying dozens of Palestinian shepherds and farmers on the southern West Bank every Saturday, to help protect them from Jewish settlers who regularly try to keep them from reaching their private lands.
The soldiers separated the cars of Ta’ayush members from the rest of the Israeli cars entering the West Bank through the checkpoint on the Tunnel Road (Route 60) and the Betar checkpoint. When they reached the checkpoint, south of Jerusalem, Border Police officers showed them a military order, signed by the commander of the Etzion Regional Brigade, Col. Amit Yamin, restricting their movements.
At the Betar checkpoint the soldiers told the group they were waiting for the order to arrive from brigade headquarters and ordered them to remain until it did. The activists waited for a time but when the order did not arrive they passed through the checkpoint on foot.
Soldiers and police officers pursued them. Soldiers confiscated the keys of the Palestinian taxi the activists had boarded, and only returned them when the group got out of the cab.
Some of the Ta’ayush members did manage to reach the southern Hebron Hills, but at five different Jewish communities where they planned to help nearby Palestinian villagers they were shown documents declaring the areas closed military areas and signed by Judea Brigade commander Col. Avi Balut.
The activists and the Palestinian landowners were ordered to leave the communities: the settlements of Sussia and Carmel and the unauthorized outposts Maon, Havat Maon, Avigail and Mitzpeh Yair. Three of the original group of 20 activists, whom the soldiers at the Tunnel Road checkpoint did not identify, did escort one of the Palestinian farmers in the area of the Nokdim settlement.
The order reads: No person shall pass through the checkpoint except with permission given by me or a person authorized by me.
The IDF Spokesman stated: “The IDF is responsible for maintaining law and order in Judea and Samaria. Every week there are provocative gatherings in the area of Sussia and Mitzpe Yair, which have at times led to violent confrontations between residents of the area and even with the security forces. In accordance with the assessment and security considerations, it was decided not to allow free passage to all the buses, which, according to the assessment, were carrying people who were liable to disrupt public order, and to examine their entrance individually at a number of checkpoints in the southern area of Judea and Samaria.”