Residents of the Salfit township, in the north-central West Bank, reported Wednesday that scores of Israeli soldiers had deployed in the area since Tuesday and declared it a ‘closed military zone’ – preventing residents from leaving their homes or going to work or school.According to the mayor of nearby Deir Estiya, Nathmi Salman, soldiers forced farmers to stop working on their land and return home.
Salman told reporters from the Ma’an News Agency that he and other officials had asked soldiers stationed in Wadi Qana to explain the closure, but the troops gave no reason for closing off the town for an extended period on Wednesday.
The area in question is surrounded by six Israeli settlements, and is the frequent site of Israeli settler attacks and attempts to further expand onto Palestinian land. The Israeli Annexation Wall has also been constructed through the middle of Palestinian homeowners’ property, with many of the homeowners having lost the majority of their arable land to the Israeli military.
Settlers have been trying for the last several years to further expand onto Palestinian land in the Qana Valley area next to Deir Istiya, and Palestinian residents of the area claim that their farmland has become virtually impossible to maintain due to the heavy settler and military presence, which prevents them from farming their land.
Before the invasion on Tuesday, the farmers had been attempting to plant crops, which must be done according to a tight agricultural schedule, or the crops will be impossible to grow and harvest correctly later in the year.