A mother describes the day Israeli settlers fired shots at her family as they planted almond trees on their land in the village of Qusra, in the occupied West Bank.
Thirty-eight year old Fatima lives with her husband and three children in the West Bank village of Qusra, near the town of Nablus. “Our village is surrounded by settlements built on land belonging to the village and the villages nearby,” says Fatima.
“On Saturday 23 February 2013, I went with my husband and children to some agricultural land we own near the village. We wanted to plant some almond trees, to do some weeding and have a nice day outside in the spring weather. At around noon, after doing a lot of work on the land, we had a tea break in a small shed we have on the land. Suddenly we heard the sound of men shouting outside and cursing using bad language which I am too embarrassed to repeat. We looked out and saw five Israeli settlers nearby carrying guns. One of them was masked. I was very scared,” says Fatima.
“My husband and I walked outside to see what was going on but the minute the settlers saw us they started to shout and verbally abuse us, it was awful. I was very worried about my husband and told him to come back inside. However, before we could do anything, I saw the masked settler take position behind a pile of dirt about 50 meters away and aim his rifle at us and started shooting in our direction. Bullets landed all around us and I was terrified and thought I was going to be killed on the spot. There was no one around except us. I instinctively ducked and started to crawl towards our car which was parked on the dirt road a few meters away. My husband did the same and told me to get into the car as quickly as possible.”
Fatima and her husband made it safely to their car but were worried for their children still inside the shed. “When the settlers noticed that my husband was trying to move the car away they ran towards us and started throwing stones. I cannot describe how terrified I was, my heart was pounding and I didn’t think we were going to make it out safely, but luckily we did.”
“Miraculously my children escaped and no one was physically hurt but I am still in shock four days later,” says Fatima. “I wake up in the middle of the night panicking and I find it hard to go back to sleep. My knees are shaky and I sometimes feel my legs are unable hold me anymore. My husband went back to the land later that day and found that the settlers had pulled out some trees, smashed the windows of the shed and caused damage to the property. One of the other villagers was seriously hurt by gunshots fired by settlers that day and was transferred to a hospital in Israel. Neighbours who live up on the hill near our land later told us that soldiers arrived at the scene more than an hour later. Instead of keeping the settlers away the soldiers started firing tear gas and sound grenades at Palestinian villagers. My husband collected tens of empty tear gas canisters like it was a war zone.”
“This is not the first time that settlers from the nearby settlement of Esh Kodesh have caused us trouble, it happens all the time,” says Fatima. I think there were about 15 attacks since June last year. On 1 January this year settlers destroyed about 60 small olive trees which my husband had planted himself. The loss is not simply financial; the idea of not being able to work our own land is deeply disturbing. The settlers don’t want us here, they want to drive us off our land so that they take it over, that’s basically it.”