Palestinian Peeople Are Living in A Real Nightmare


The new school year has started and harvest season is just around the corner, but some of the men and boys of Masafer Yatta are busy working on a different project – moving into a cave.

In Khribet al-Fakhiet, a remote village deep in the occupied West Bank, residents were using an improvised winch mounted on a pickup truck to help clear out a cavern housing sheep and goats. Buckets lowered through the entrance and a hole in the ceiling came back out filled with straw and dung; the dusty, hot interior was lit by lamps powered by a generator. Faced with the demolition of their home, livestock pens and other structures, one family is preparing to relocate into the cave before winter comes.

“We have no choice,” said Mohammed Ayoub, the head of an extended family of 17. “We have been sleeping in the village clinic since our home was destroyed, but we have to find an alternative.”

The Guardian met the family in May, just after the Israeli supreme court decision that has turned life upside down for the 1,000 or so Palestinians living in Masafer Yatta’s collection of hamlets. The Ayoub house was demolished by bulldozers in an operation supervised by the Israel Defence Forces a few weeks after the ruling, leaving them living in a tent all summer.

Israel designated this 3,000ha (7,410 acre) area of the barren south Hebron hills as a military training zone – Firing Zone 918 – in the 1980s. After decades of legal battles, however, four months ago the supreme court finally agreed with the IDF’s argument that the people living in Masafer Yatta could not prove they were residents before the firing zone was established.

The ruling, which contravenes international law, was one of the single biggest expulsion decisions since the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories began in 1967. Now, the homes and livelihoods of the entire community are at risk, and the army, together with illegal Israeli settlers, is increasing the pressure to try to get the Palestinians to leave.

Life in Masafer Yatta was already difficult: the region is located in Area C, the sparsely populated 60% of the West Bank under full Israeli control and under threat of annexation. Palestinian water cisterns, solar panels, roads and buildings here are frequently demolished on the grounds that they do not have building permits, which are nearly impossible to obtain, while surrounding illegal Israeli settlements flourish. The community are mostly herders, raising goats and sheep throughout scorching summers and freezing winters.

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