Days of Palestine

Saturday, March 25

“They do not care about anything; our lives, our children mean nothing to them,” says Palestinian Bedouin

Days of Palestine -

Harb Abu-Elkbash, a 48-year-old Palestinian Bedouin, will spend the ninth straight night under open sky in freezing temperatures.

The Israeli occupation forces raided his village of Hamsa al-Baqia in the northern Jordan Valley and removed his tent and sheepfold.

Despite the severe winter conditions last week as a snowstorm hit Palestine, the Israeli forces removed Palestinians’ tents although they were being assembled to provide shelter to the community and their livestock.

The remnants of tents, sheds, portable toilets, and solar panels belonging to 11 families can be seen strewn across the farmland, said Anadolu Agency.

As villagers like Harb try to rebuild the shelters for themselves and their livestock, the forces return to demolish them again, forcing the hapless community to spend nights roofless.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Harb said they had finally managed to repair their belongings when Israeli forces demolished them two months ago.

“They came again twice in the past few days and confiscated all our farming tools, portable toilets, and the metal structures for our rooms and tents,” he said.

Last Tuesday, the Israeli forces stormed the village as a delegation of European diplomats was visiting the area – all supplies brought for the people were confiscated.

“We are 65 people living without shelter, water, and electricity,” Harb said, narrating how the Israelis made it a point to destroy the solar panels the Bedouin community was using for power.

“They did not allow me to fetch water from the well that is 300 meters away from my tent. I need to travel two hours every night to bring water for my family. If I go during the day, the army will seize my van,” he said.

Motaz Bsharat, director of the Jordan Valley’s affairs in Tubas, described the situation as catastrophic.

“It is a perfect crime. Among these 65 Bedouins, there are 42 children. They are all living out in the open. The army does not allow us to access the village; we cannot help or rescue them, they confiscate everything,” he said.

“My family came here before 1967, and now the Israelis claim that our lands are military zones and want to expel us,” Harb said.

“They do not care about anything; our lives, our children mean nothing to them.”

Harb, his brothers, and their families are now spending the biting cold winter nights out in the open.

“Our children live in dire conditions. My nephew was just three days old when the army demolished our tents the first time. They took our tents when it was raining,” he told Anadolu Agency.

“The occupation is trying to take the area on the east of the Ayalon Highway to isolate the West Bank and annex fertile lands of Jordan Valley, which is the food basket of the West Bank,” said Qasem Awwad, an official of the Colonization and Wall Resistance Commission.

More than 200 establishments have been demolished four times, causing financial losses of more than $3 million, according to the commission.

“Hamsa has been completely destroyed nine times, thrice within the first week of February,” he said.

The Israeli occupation forces demolished Hamsa al-Bqaia community four times this month under the pretext that the area is designated for training and displaced its community with a plan to relocate them to another area.

On 3 November 2020, in the largest forced displacement incident recorded in recent years, 73 people, including 41 children were displaced. The structures demolished were residential, WASH and livestock related, of which 29 structures had been provided as humanitarian assistance.

On 1 February, Israeli occupation forces confiscated 25 structures in Hamsa al-Bqaia on the alleged basis that they lacked an Israeli building permit for construction in Area C.

On 3 February, Israeli occupation forces returned to seize a further 21 structures. Sixty Palestinians have been uprooted from their homes, including 35 children. Structures demolished included 21 homes, 17 livestock shelters, and 8 water and hygiene facilities.

On 8 February, the Israeli Civil Administration, accompanied by the military, returned to the Palestinian Bedouin community and confiscated or demolished another 16 residential and animal structures. Thirteen were donor-funded and had been provided as a humanitarian response to two incidents on 1 and 3 February.

On 16 February, the occupation forces confiscated five donor-funded livelihood tents, which were being assembled to provide shelter to the community and their livestock.

Since the start of 2021, the Israeli occupation authorities have demolished, seized or forced people to demolish at least 199 Palestinian-owned structures, including 77 donor-funded, displacing 285 people, including some 150 children. This represents an over 200 per cent increase in structures targeted, and an over 500 per cent increase in donor-funded structures targeted, compared to the equivalent period in 2020, according to The United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).