(Society of St. Yves) September 17, 2015 – On Thursday 09/17/2015 a US delegation of governmental envoys and diplomats visited the Cremisan valley and Beir Ona, in Beit Jala, to assess the situation and monitor the construction of the annexation wall in the region. The delegation included the special representative for faith-based initiatives to the US Department of State, Mr. Shaun Casey.
The delegation started its visit at the Salesian Sisters Convent in Cremisan, where the lawyers of St. Yves briefed the delegation on the latest legal developments in the case, including the recent petition filed by St. Yves in its capacity as representative of the Convent at the end of July, to which the Israeli army responded with rejection.
The delegation then visited the Beir Onah, where the Israeli army has recently uprooted olive trees and bulldozed agricultural lands in preparation for the construction of the annexation wall. The Parish priest of Beit Jala, Father Aktham Hijazin, addressed the delegation, warning against the risks of constructing the annexation wall in Cremisan and the grave consequences of its construction on 58 Palestinian Christian land owners and their families, which might ethnically cleanse the area from its Christian inhabitants.
Fr. Aktham also updated the delegation on the peaceful activities of the Beit Jala residents and land owners to protest against the annexation wall, including the open air Masses held daily on field to pray for peace, and the weekly peaceful marches which are constantly countered by violence, gas grenades and assaults on civilians by the Israeli forces.
Land owners gave their testimonies before the delegation on the damage they incurred as a result to the construction of the annexation wall in Beir Onah, where Israeli forces uprooted 2000 years old olive trees and bulldozed their agricultural lands, which constitute as the main source of livelihood of these families. They demanded the delegation to pressure Israel to halt the construction of the wall in the region.
It should be noted that the construction of the wall as planned by the Israeli Army in Cremisan would isolate 3500 dunums of land from Beit Jala.