[News] 'This is our mountain': Palestinians repel settlers emboldened by Netanyahu's words

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Mar 5 12:45:53 EST 2020


  'This is our mountain': Palestinians repel settlers emboldened by
  Netanyahu's words

By Shatha Hammad in Beita, Occupied West Bank - 5 March, 2020

Around the stove, about 30 Palestinians gather inside a big tent on top 
of Mount Al-Urma, east of the town of Beita in the occupied West Bank, 
taking a rest and preparing for the latest confrontation with Israeli 
soldiers and settlers.

Hours earlier on Monday, settlers had tried for a second time to reach 
the top of the mountain, but the residents of Beita, which lies south of 
Nablus, had quickly gathered to defend their lands.

Clashes erupted, during which the Israeli army opened fire, wounding two 
Palestinians with live ammunition and 10 others with rubber bullets.

Residents of Beita have continued their daily sit-in at the top of 
Al-Urma since last Thursday after they were alerted to calls by settlers 
on social media to seize the mountain and turn it into an Israeli 
religious tourist route.

On Friday, the settlers had made their first attempt to seize Mount 
Al-Urma but were repelled by hundreds of locals.

The confrontation left 93 people injured by Israeli live fire and rubber 

A huge Palestinian flag, measuring 4 metres by 3.5 metres, was flown 25 
metres above the top of the mountain, and people started going regularly 
to the site, declaring it an open sit-in.

On Monday, when the settlers made their second attempt, 19-year-old 
Adham Zuhair told MEE that along with dozens of other youths taking part 
in the sit-in he had watched as the settlers tried to ascend the 
mountain towards them.

“We contacted the villagers, the mosques’ speakers began asking people 
to head to Mount Al-Urma... in less than 10 minutes hundreds of people 
had arrived here," he said.

The settlers retreated and withdrew under the cover of live fire from 
the Israeli army.

Zuhair said: "I am here 24 hours a day, I don't get tired nor do I feel 
bored... I will stay here to protect our lands, whatever it costs."

      Netanyahu promises

On Wednesday, in the nearby village of Qusra, Israeli bulldozers began 
clearing land in what residents said was an attempt to confiscate it for 
future illegal settlements.

Villagers from Qusra challenged the Israeli soldiers guarding the 
bulldozers as they worked in a field close to the Migdalim settlement.

    'I am here 24 hours a day, I don't get tired nor do I feel bored...
    I will stay here to protect our lands, whatever it costs'

    /- Adham Zuhair/

Palestininans say settlers had been emboldened by US President Donald 
Trump's Middle East plan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu 
promise to annex settlements.

Netanyahu's right-wing Likud Party leads the vote count after Monday's 
election, but with 99 percent of votes counted on Wednesday he was still 
short of securing enough seats for a governing coalition.

Victory would pave the way for Netanyahu to make good on his pledge to 
annex settlements in the West Bank under Trump's plan.

      Previous battles

Dozens of young men, helping maintain the flag mast, are dotted around 
the tent on Mount Al-Urma, as older men chat and groups of children play 
with the remains of gas bombs and a sound bomb left by the Israeli army.

Despite the cold, the only conversations among the people in the tent 
are about their pride in being able to protect their lands.

While one young man prepared coffee and began distributing it, other 
volunteers started making freekeh soup, a popular Palestinian food 
usually prepared in the winter as it provides the body with energy and 

Leaning on his crutch, one of the volunteers, Muhammad Khrweish, tells 
how he was injured in clashes in Beita on 6 April 1988, when the 
villagers had previously confronted an attack by settlers.

Khrweish told MEE: "Since 1923, 70 people from the town of Beita were 
martyred and 300 injured.

"Meanwhile, the occupation has destroyed 25 houses, and detained about 
3,000 people since 1967. It was all in the defence of our territory, and 
it is action we will continue to take."

Khrweish remembers how his village's residents protected Beita’s Jabal 
Sabih two years ago, when settlers attempted to take it.

"We spent two weeks sitting on the mountain so that we could prevent the 
settlers from seizing it," he said.

      'We will not abandon our lands'

"Today, the settlers are testing themselves again in Beita," said Khrweish.

"They gathered 750 settlers and 200 soldiers on Friday 28 February, and 
more than 1,200 residents of the village came and defended their lands."

"The army and the settlers will try to take advantage of any moment we 
leave the mountain, so we will continue to stay here...

    'We will not give up the mountain and will not abandon our lands'

    /- Muhammad Khrweish/

“We will not give up the mountain and will not abandon our lands," said 

Muhammad Jamal Bani Muflih, a 12-year-old child at the scene, told MEE: 
"I used to come here with my family or friends to take a walk and take 

"Now I come every day to defend the mountain and prevent the settlers 
from approaching it.

"The only way to protect the mountain is to stay on it... We will not 
allow them to steal it from us, this is our mountain, and the monuments 
on it prove that."

      'We demand his immediate release'

Last Thursday, settlers had published appeals on Facebook, calling for 
people to descend on Mount Al-Urma the next day, which Palestinian 
journalist Mujahid Beni Mafelah republished after translating them on 
his Facebook page.

Following the publication of his translation, Mafelah was arrested by 
Israeli police on charges of incitement on social media.

Assad Bani Mafelah, the journalist's brother, told MEE that the police 
had arrested his brother in the evening of last Thursday while he and 
his family were heading to Beita, leaving his wife and two children, 
aged two and three, near the Israeli settlement.

"The Israeli police continue to detain Mujahid in the Israeli detention 
centre and have extended his detention twice so far, the second time on 
Monday," said Assad.

"We are surprised that Mujahid, who was undertaking his role as a 
journalist in translating and publishing, was arrested.

"He only republished what the settlers wrote on their pages. As his 
family, we are worried about him, and we demand his immediate release 
allowing him to return to his children".

      No evidence of Jewish monuments

Mount Al-Urma, which is spread over 250 dunums, is one of the most 
important archaeological areas in Nablus, and the highest peak in Beita.

According to historians, it has been inhabited since the early Bronze 
Age, about 3,200 years ago.

On top of the mountain, walls which still exist indicate that an ancient 
castle was built there, under which seven water tanks were dug into the 

Mufid Salah, the director of the Antiquities Directorate in Nablus, told 
MEE that the capacity of each tank was at least 1,500 cups, with stone 
channels between them reaching a depth of one and a half metres, which 
were used to store rainwater.

Salah said there were popular but unproven stories that, in the past, 
the storage tanks were used as prisons and to store weapons.

He said that items discovered so far on Mount Al-Urma date back to the 
Bronze, Roman, Byzantine and Islamic period, up until Ottoman times.

"Excavation at the site has not been completed yet, and many of the 
ruins are still not visible nor discovered, but we expect there will be 
many buried monuments," Salah added.

He said that excavations were carried out in the area at the beginning 
of the 1960s, but there was no evidence of Jewish monuments that the 
settlers are seeking to find.

"The Israeli search renewed around Mount Al-Urma in 2018 after expansion 
of the nearby settlement of Itamar and attempts to link the mountain to 
the Israeli Prophet Nun's compound," said Salah.

      No settlements in Beita

Beita, with a population of 13,000 people, is spread over 23,000 dunums, 
most of which are classified according to the Oslo Accords as Areas B, 
where the Palestinian Authority has civilian rule but security remains 
controlled by Israel.

Despite the continuous attempts to confiscate Beita's lands, the town is 
completely devoid of settlement expansion as the town's citizens have 
repeatedly succeeded in repelling the settlers.

"We have a stubborn insistence that we will defend our land and we will 
not allow it to be a settlement centre," Fouad Ma'ale, the mayor of 
Beita, told MEE.

"The Itamar settlement on the land of the village of Awarta is adjacent 
to a house from the northern side and its settlers are carrying out 
continuous attacks on farmers and olive trees. However, it [the 
settlement] did not expand on the town's lands.

“Mount Al-Urma is the highest mountain in the southern part of Nablus, 
rising 840 metres above sea level.

"It overlooks the villages of Beita, Aqraba, Osrin, Awarta, Odla, as 
well as Jordan to the east and the Mediterranean coast to the west.

"The settlers and the Israeli army are trying to take control this 
mountain because of its important strategic position," continued Ma'ale.

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