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Concerns over olive harvest increase for families under threat of settlers

Amin Abu Wardeh

October 7, 2009

Nablus , PNN ľ With the onset of olive harvest coinciding with the rise in attacks by settlers, rural Palestinian families have an even more difficult time.

They are preparing their work supplies, equipment and storage for the impending season.

Israeli settlers are not known to discriminate in the attacks that are particularly brutal in Hebron, Qalqilia and southern Nablus, including the stealing of crops, burning of fields and houses, shootings and beatings.

The settler movement issued a statement this month threatening Palestinians involved in the olive harvest, a season so important that students are often let out of universities, and staff from work, in order to participate.

Qais Abu Omar, from the Qalqilia town of Sanniriya, has quit his job, at least temporarily, in order to help his family with the olive harvest, namely by attempting to protect them from settlers.

He told PNN that the town's families have taken precautions for the olive harvest and have therefore decided to work collectively. In this area no one will move on until all have completed.

The occupying Israeli administration is imposing additional repressive measures, and it is particularly difficult for Palestinians living on the western edge of the West Bank; the villages along the Green Line are in hard times as much of their land has been confiscated for settlements and the Wall.

The Qalqilia area towns of Habla, Beit Amin and Sanniriya are surrounded by settlements, and are feeling the squeeze.

With the launch of the olive harvest for this year, rural families in the villages that settlements have been built adjacent to are involved in guesswork. Gathering the supplies for harvest continues, but they do not know what the season will bring. Israeli authorities have announced large swaths of the western West Bank along the boundary area as closed military zones. Without prior permission, granted ostensibly to the local farming community only, no other farmers can work.

Women are facing double the work and risks at home and in the fields. According to villagers, Palestinian women in the towns bear extra burdens. Zuhair Abdul-Fattah Azzun described a packed day, typical of olive harvest season. She said that she prepares food early for her family, and cares for the children before they go school, and then picks olives, hauls them home, greets her children coming home from school, cooks an evening meal and then returns against to the fields for harvesting.

The situation is different now, says Qais Abu Omar, who notes that the settlers are more extremist and the military checkpoints more harsh.

Still in the southern Nablus village of Huwara families are denied access to their territory, rendering them unable to reap the harvest. Town resident Fadia told PNN that the majority of farmers, including her family, have become afraid to walk to their fields because of the settler outposts scattered around Yitzhar Settlement, home to some of the most extremist of the settlers.

Khadija Awad of Nablusĺ Beit Fureik said that due to the practices of settlers from Itamar Settlement, olive harvest has become a nightmare for tens of families who own land close to the street that was built leading to the settlement.

Suhail Shehadeh from the town of Asira in southern Nablus said that the picturesque atmosphere of olive harvest in past years is gone. The celebrations with families and friends that once began and ended the season are no more. Instead, stress and loss mar the harvest.

The General Committee to Defend the Land reports that 170 Palestinian villages are located in areas that settlements have been built. According to the report, these villages are subjected to continuing attacks by settlers which have prevented them from accessing their land.

The economic situation is being hard hit, as well as this part of Palestinian heritage.

:: Article nr. 58683 sent on 08-oct-2009 12:12 ECT


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