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Palestinian human rights trip for Skerries man Joe

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Joe O'Brien is heading to the West Bank as a human rights observer for three months.

Joe O'Brien is heading to the West Bank as a human rights observer for three months.

Joe O'Brien is heading to the West Bank as a human rights observer for three months.

Joe, an NGO worker, is travelling as part of the Ecumen ica l Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) and is following in the footsteps of another Skerries resident Ingrid Colvin, who returned from the West Bank in February.

Joe and Ingrid are two of only seven Irish people on the programme this year.

EAPPI is an international programme of the World Council of Churches that has been operating in the West Bank since 2003.

The observers will carry out duties such as monitoring Israeli army checkpoints that Palestinians need to pass through in order to get to work, family, school or hospital.

They will also be supporting local Palestinian and Israeli peace groups and recording and reporting their observations and human stories.

Joe, who will be based in the village of Jayyous in the north of the West Bank said: 'Local Palestinians have told the EAPPI that their presence makes a difference easier.

'The IDF (Israeli Defence Force) tends to treat the Palestinians more humanely when there are international eyes watching them. This can also be the case with some hard-line Israeli settlers who harass farmers on their land and children on their way to school.'

Mr O'Brien stated: 'While our task is daunting and there are some risks we have been prepared very well and we will be supported well while on the ground.

'Ultimately it is a privilege to be able to make some small positive difference in this conflict and to bring back the stories of ordinary people who have been suffering under this protracted and entrenched occupation.'