On December 1, more than 200 Israelis, Palestinians and internationals walked from at-Tuwani to the nearby village of Tuba. The walk highlighted the violent harassment faced by villagers in the South Hebron Hills which continues to worsen with the growth of unauthorized* Israeli settlement outposts.
Located a few kilometers outside the larger Palestinian city of Yatta, at-Tuwani serves as a gateway to trade, education and healthcare for a handful of more remote villages.
Tuba is just a twenty-minute walk southeast of at-Tuwani by the most direct route, which people traveled regularly before the construction of the Ma’on settlement (1984) and adjacent unauthorized outpost of Havat Ma’on (2000). Since then, settler attacks have forced Palestinians to take a longer route, which is about one hour on foot or by donkey.
Settler violence has also blocked Tuba villagers from reaching their fields for routine plowing, sowing and grazing. The Israeli peace organization, Ta’ayush, which cosponsored the march, hoped that a large Israeli activist presence would enable Tuba farmers to plow without harassment.
Initially, the Israeli army tried to prevent the demonstrators from leaving at-Tuwani, but the large crowd peacefully pushed through the army cordon and continued over the hills to Tuba. The Palestinians successfully plowed and sowed their fields with only minor disruptions.
After a peaceful gathering with Tuba villagers outside their caves, the marchers returned to at-Tuwani via the short route next to the outpost. Clapping and singing, they walked passed dozens of Havat Ma’on settlers who tried to disrupt the procession, but Israeli soldiers and police restrained them.
Later in the evening, Israeli settlers attacked a boy from Tuba and stole his donkey. CPTers spent the night in Tuba in case further retaliation by settlers occurred, but the night passed without incident.
Tuba and its fields are situated within a vast tract of land that the Israeli government seeks to confiscate and use as a military firing range. If the Israeli Supreme Court finds in favor of the state and the army, they will expel all the villagers from their homes.?
*All Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal under international law; however, the settlement outposts are illegal under Israeli law.