On Saturday, Israeli soldiers detained three Palestinian boys in At-Tuwani Village in the South Hebron Hills of the West Bank. The boys, aged 13 and 14, were gathering herbs above al-Khelli Valley, 300 metres from the Israeli settlement of Ma'on, on land owned by the eldest child's family.
At 10.30am, members of Operation Dove were accompanying the children and saw soldiers drive a jeep onto the hillside. Three soldiers ran toward the children, grabbed the shears they were using on the plants, pushed them up to the jeep and forced them onto their knees for ten minutes. The security guard of Ma'on Settlement arrived, and the soldiers forced two of the children into the jeep. When the third boy attempted to run away, a soldier chased him across his family's land. The soldier cocked his M16 and aimed it at the boy, who stopped immediately. Soldiers then forced this boy into the jeep and took all three away from the scene.
Fifteen minutes later, members of Operation Dove saw the three children running down a hillside toward them. The boys said the soldiers took them across Israeli highway 317, which passes At-Tuwani and Ma'on, drove them into the hills and released them.
The privately owned Al-Khelli area of At-Tuwani borders Ma'on Settlement and the Havat Ma'on illegal settlement outpost. Israeli settlers and occupation authorities frequently disturb agricultural work there, which residents say indicates an organized effort to close the land to its Palestinian owners.
According to the Geneva Conventions, the International Court of Justice in the Hague, and numerous United Nations resolutions, all Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) are illegal. Most settlement outposts are considered illegal under Israeli law. But since the beginning of February, 2010, international accompaniers from Operation Dove and Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) have witnessed increasing incidents of Palestinian land closure in the South Hebron Hills. They have seen Palestinian shepherds detained and arrested by the Israeli military, and attacked by Israeli settlers.
Operation Dove and CPT together maintain a continuous presence in the South Hebron Hills to accompany Palestinian victims of violence and intimidation. To see Operation Dove's web site click: www.operationdove.org.
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