Thursday, October 11, 2012

Soldiers fire guns outside Mayor Haj Sami's home

As I was putting jam on my toast this morning, Donna told me that soldiers had tried to bust down Haj Sami's door in Al Aqaba last night. ooooook. That's messed up. Not very surprising, but that kind of thing had never happened in Al Aqaba before. A large training yes, but a three-jeep midnight harassment? It sounds like they were drunk and went rogue from the camp down the street. In any case, I knew we had some work to do, at least to figure out what the soldiers wanted, and if it was related to the upcoming demolition review for the Jaber house.

We drove to a coffeeshop to draft a report of the Arabic version Haj Sami sent us, and called him from the parking lot. This was the first time I talked to Haj Sami since I left in May.

 "The people is...very fried!" That's how he says afraid. We found out that the soldiers were outside the gate to his house, not his front door. I was relieved to know that they hadn't broken protocol (entirely) and entered the center compound, and I could still assure visitors that the Guest House was safe. Of course, this was unexpected, so what else could they go and do?

Donna and I translated the report into English and gave some background information:

Three Israeli Jeeps Enter Al Aqaba Village at 1am, Soldiers Fire Bullets Outside Mayor's Gate  

At one o’ clock in the morning on Oct. 10th, 2012, three Israeli military jeeps drove through Al Aqaba Village to Mayor Haj Sami Sadeq Sbaih’s house at alarmingly high speed. They banged on his gate and yelled for him to open immediately. Because he is paraplegic, Mayor Haj Sami needs time and assistance to get out of bed. Before he was able to approach the soldiers, they fired bullets above his house and then drove away firing into the air. Villagers were terrified for Mayor Haj Sami and his elderly mother who lives with him. 

Mayor Haj Sami received no message from the soldiers — neither oral or written. This raid seemed to be an intimidation tactic against the mayor, a peace advocate who continues to build and welcome visitors despite demolition orders against 97% of his village. Forty years ago at the age of 16, Mayor Haj Sami was shot by Israeli soldiers when working in the fields with his parents, and since then has been wheelchair-bound. He was the first casualty in the Israeli Army’s live-fire training exercises that killed 12 people and injured 36. In 2002, by order of the Israeli Court, the Israeli Army signed an agreement barring live-fire training exercises within Al Aqaba Village, but the next year the Army issued demolition orders against the kindergarten, the mosque, the medical clinic, and most of the homes. 

“I was not afraid, but the people were frightened,” said Mayor Haj Sami, “I will stay steadfast and serve the citizens, God willing, these criminal acts will not scare me.”