On March 18, an Israeli Border Police officer broke the ankle of Qamar Aliyan, an 11-year-old Palestinian girl, while trying to enter her family’s land with a group of children in the southern West Bank village of Umm Lasafa, near Hebron. Qamar is the daughter of Sa’id Aliyan, who two years ago had his jaw broken by masked Israeli settlers armed with metal pipes, who descended from the Mitzpe Yair outpost as the Aliyan family was having a picnic on their private land.
To this day, Israeli troops are systematically preventing the family from accessing their land. Every Saturday, the army declares the area a closed military zone and sets up a makeshift checkpoint on the road, in the presence of settlers from the nearby outpost. The Border Police were there again that Saturday two weeks ago. One of them forcefully kicked Qamar in her foot as she tried to enter the area.
“Qamar came back with a limp. She struggled to walk,” her mother, Rima, said. That morning, she explained, the children ran ahead of the parents during a stroll, arrived at the hill overlooking the land, and ran into dozens of police officers, who were stationed there as they have been almost every Saturday for the last few months.
Lying on a mattress, her leg bandaged, Qamar described what happened: “We were walking toward our land, but soldiers were waiting for us in front of the entrance to the field. They didn’t let us pass. Behind them I saw the settlers on our land, with clubs and sheep.”
Then, Qamar continued, “Soldiers told us, the kids, to sit. One of them grabbed the neck of my seven-year-old cousin Mohammad. We ran back, and they pushed all the kids, who were sitting, hard. At that moment, the soldier kicked me in the leg. I felt a lot of pain.” Qamar was taken to the hospital; the medical report declared her ankle was broken.
Sa’id, the father, said that since September 2022, he has repeatedly called the Civil Administration — the branch of the Israeli military that oversees the occupied territories — who confirmed that he is allowed to access his land. In reality, however, the soldiers prevent him from doing so every week, delaying and even detaining him. Israeli forces have also arbitrarily detained other Palestinian residents of the village to pressure them not to approach the area.
‘Sa’id is causing these problems for you’
Aside from the routine harassment and violence he faces on that particular path toward his land, Israeli forces operate elsewhere to prevent Sa’id from reaching other parts of his property.
In early March, in the middle of the night, the army raided the family’s home in Umm Lasafa, and, according to Sa’id, a soldier threatened that if he continued trying to get to his land on Saturdays, “Your family will get hurt,” with no further explanation.
This indicates an abuse of power and an unsanctioned use of the “closed military zone” designation by soldiers on the ground. The result is that settlers have been able to take control of the area, even though a legal order has expressly defined it as the family’s private property.
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On Saturday, Feb. 11, soldiers arrived at the Aliyans’ home, before Sa’id was even able to step outside. “A jeep parked outside my house in the morning,” he recounted. “They put up a checkpoint between the house and the main road, and left it there until 3 p.m. They stopped every car that passed, and said to the residents who passed by that ‘Sa’id is causing these problems for you.’ The soldiers told me that if I stopped ‘making trouble,’ they would stop putting up the checkpoint.”
Sa’id has been arrested many times in recent months as he has tried to work his land. He is usually released after a few hours, at a spot along the main road, next to the army base or near one of the settlements in the area. The last two times he was arrested, he was taken to the police station, where he received a restraining order that banned him from approaching his land for 10, and later 15, days.
On Feb. 18, Sa’id arrived at his land accompanied by Israeli and international activists. Three of the activists were arrested on the grounds that they had violated the closed military zone order. “They do this to scare [the activists] as well, so there won’t be anyone who can come with me,” he explained. “They don’t apply the order to settlers — they are always able to go about freely in the closed area.” The left-wing activists who were arrested also received a restraining order banning them from the area.”
“The way in which the military systematically uses closed military zones contravenes the guidelines for their proper use,” said Qamar Masharki-As’ad, a Palestinian lawyer who is an expert on land issues in the occupied West Bank. “Soldiers are supposed to close an area under only certain conditions, like when settlers and Palestinians are present in the same place at the same time, in order to prevent disputes from arising and to clear everyone from the area. In this case, they prepare the orders in advance, every week, before Sa’id even gets to his land. There are many weeks in which no settlers come to the area, but soldiers close it off anyway and arrest Sa’id. This policy supports settlers who wish to take control of the land.”
Settlers from the Mitzpe Yair outpost have destroyed Sa’id’s agricultural land in the past, and even started seeding it themselves, according to the family members. In March 2021, around 15 settlers descended from the direction of the outpost, armed with guns. They hit Sa’id with an iron pipe, breaking his jaw. His wife recorded the incident on video, as a settler hit her in the stomach with a club, and her children hid in the car.
+972 requested comments from the IDF spokesperson and the Border Police. Any reply received will be published here.
A version of this article first appeared in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.