HUWARA, March 13 (JMCC) - Rocks are strewn on the floor. Shattered glass has mixed with herbs drying on a sheet. Three holes of different sizes puncture the glass window on the second story of this home.
In the bright light of the afternoon, it is hard to imagine the terror that must have filled the Ahmed family as dozens of Israeli settlers stoned their building the night before.
“I was just afraid for my kids,” says Fathiya, mother of four boys and six girls. “I didn’t care about the house, but I was worried for them. I told them to stay away from the windows, not to look out.”
Here on the main street between Nablus
villages lie nestled between growing Israeli settlements
. Once only visible from afar, the settlements have increased in size and are now creeping up the villagers’ back yards.
In times of tension, this proximity can mean violence. And on Saturday morning, when word spread that an Israeli couple and three of their children had been killed in the night in the settlement of Itamar
, Palestinians braced for retaliation.
The attacks began Saturday afternoon and continued until dawn the next day.
“All night, they [Palestinians] were calling from the mosque, announcing that the settlers were coming this way and that,” says Warda Yusef, 60. “We didn’t sleep at all.”
Late last month, Yusef’s home was firebombed by settlers after the Israeli army dismantled an outpost that had been constructed without government permission.
“I saw the bed on fire,” she recalls. “They had broken the glass [in the window] and thrown a Molotov cocktail in afterwards. There was one thrown at the car, too, but we managed to put it out quickly.”
The first floor of her house was scorched that night, and the family has yet to replace the burnt curtains and knick-knacks that once decorated their home.
And so, after Saturday’s killings, her cousin Muhammed Hassan called the military to protect their homes, which sit side-by-side on the hill below the settlement of Yitzhar
“I said to the military, ‘I need you to help us,’” Palestinian-American businessman Hassan recalls. “He said, ‘Why are you here? Go back to the US.’ I said, ’I worked 41 years to bring something back to my country. I’m not going to leave now.’”
On Sunday, four soldiers stood guard outside Hassan’s garden, sitting on the family’s plastic chairs and drinking tea.
This time, however, the damage done was to an unfinished apartment owned by Yusef along the main road.
According to Fathiya Ahmed, who lives across the street, more than 100 Israeli settlers stormed the area at night, breaking down cement block walls still under construction.
Expensive pallets of white limestone used for finishing a house sat next to the road Sunday, their broken contents spilling out.
A small cinder block structure housing an electrical gauge was bashed in, the gauge damaged. Part of a wall in the half-built home was knocked over, its cinder blocks broken and left lying where they fell.
Just up the road, a fledgling plant nursery was also attacked. Lemon tree saplings lay on their side and shards of broken pottery littered the ground.
According to Hassan, it’s only in the last three or four years that the settlers have become so bold. He says they used to wait at the nearby checkpoint to caravan together through Huwara with an army patrol.
Now, however, the settlers come into the village on foot. Hassan blames the Palestinian leadership’s policies of shutting down resistance for that.
“They don’t let anyone lift a knife,” he says.