[News] Israel demolishes Palestinian Bedouin village for seventh time in under a year
news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Jul 9 17:50:39 EDT 2021
demolishes Palestinian Bedouin village for seventh time in under a year
By Akram Al-Waara in Khirbet Humsah, occupied West Bank - July 8, 2021
Israeli forces demolished the Palestinian Bedouin village of Khirbet Humsah
for the seventh time on Wednesday, leaving an estimated 11 families,
numbering more than 70 people, homeless.
At around 9am local time, dozens of Israeli military jeeps, bulldozers,
police vehicles and trucks raided the hamlet, located in the northern
Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank.
“They came in full force, with buses, military jeeps, trucks, and police,”
Harb Abu Kbash, 50, a shepherd and resident of Khirbet Humsah told MEE.
'They started destroying everything. Our homes, our livestock pens, water
tanks, and anything they could see. There wasn’t a single thing in sight
that they didn’t destroy'
*- Harb Abu Kbash, resident*
“There were hundreds of soldiers, intelligence officials, civil
administration officers, and police,” Abu Kbash said, adding that armed
Israeli soldiers immediately put the area under siege, preventing anyone
from coming in or out.
“They started destroying everything. Our homes, our livestock pens, water
tanks, and anything they could see. There wasn’t a single thing in sight
that they didn’t destroy,” the shepherd said.
According to locals, Israeli forces were stationed in the area until around
6pm, by which time they had levelled the village, and confiscated most of
the villagers’ belongings.
“After the demolition they confiscated everything - solar panels, water
tanks, even our gas tanks we use for cooking, and all of our food supplies,
and the fodder for our livestock,” Abu Kbash said.
He added that Israeli forces even confiscated their families’ clothes, baby
formula, and diapers for their children.
“Anything that could have helped us live, or give us life here, they
confiscated it,” he said. “They took it all.”
‘They threw us out in the sun’
Khirbet Humsah is home to an estimated 74 Palestinians, including 41
children, who maintain a semi-nomadic way of life, living primarily in
tents and tin structures, and raising livestock.
Wednesday’s demolition campaign marked the seventh time in less than a year
that Israel has destroyed the hamlet. The first demolition was in November
on the eve of the US elections, and in the midst of the cold winter storm.
During that demolition, Israeli human rights group B’tselem reported
that Israeli forces destroyed 18 tents and sheds that housed the families,
as well as 29 tents and sheds used as livestock enclosures, three storage
sheds, nine tents used as kitchens, 10 portable toilets, 10 livestock pens,
23 water containers, two solar panels, and feeding and watering troughs for
[image: Workers dismantle tents during a demolition operation led by
Israeli security forces of Khirbet Humsah (AFP)]
Workers dismantle tents during a demolition operation led by Israeli
security forces of Khirbet Humsah (AFP)
Between November and February, Israeli forces destroyed the village five
more times. On at least two occasions, B’tselem documented
forces cutting down and uprooting trees in the area, affecting more than
3,000 trees in total.
So far in 2021, the Israeli authorities have demolished, seized or forced
people to demolish at least 421 Palestinian-owned structures, including 130
funded by donors, displacing 592 people, including some 320 children across
the West Bank, UNOCHA, the United Nations' humanitarian agency, reported.
“This represents a 24 percent increase in structures targeted, a near 110
percent increase in donor-funded structures targeted and over 50 percent
increase in people displacement, compared with the equivalent period in
2020,” UNOCHA said.
'If you came here today and looked at the land, you would never know that
there are people living here, and that there was a village here just 24
*- Ayman Ghraib, activist*
In the aftermath of the previous demolitions, dozens of Palestinian
activists from the Jordan Valley and surrounding areas went to Khirbet
Humsah and led efforts to help the villagers rebuild, providing them with
new tents and shelters.
This time, however, that was made impossible by Israeli authorities. “They
completely blocked off the area, and wouldn’t let any of us arrive at the
village so we could help the people,” Ayman Ghraib, a local activist with
the Popular Resistance Committees, told MEE.
“We tried to enter the area with food and water and supplies for new tents,
but the soldiers prevented us from getting in,” he said, adding that many
of the activists had to walk through the mountains to find other entry
points to the village.
Palestinian journalists also reported not being able to access the village
on Wednesday and Thursday in order to go cover the events in Humsah.
“By the time we were able to access the village it was late at night, and
everything was gone,” Ghraib said. “If you came here today and looked at
the land, you would never know that there are people living here, and that
there was a village here just 24 hours ago.”
Both local residents and activists told MEE that Wednesday’s demolition in
Khirbet Humsah “felt different” than previous demolition campaigns, with
locals saying that Israeli soldiers were “extremely aggressive.”
“They threw us out in the hot sun, it was more than 35 degrees yesterday,
and they confiscated all our food and water,” Abu Kbash said. “The children
were sitting in the sun for hours, with nothing to drink and no shelter.”
'This is a clear attempt at forcible transfer, which is a war crime under
*- Ayman Ghraib, activist*
Abu Kbash noted that throughout the demolition campaign, Israeli soldiers
and officials ate food and drank cold water that they had brought with them.
“They ate their food and were drinking ice cold water in front of us, and
didn’t even offer anything to the children,” he said. “They saw the kids,
terrified and sitting in the sun, and they just taunted them.”
“There was absolutely no humanity,” he said, adding that before the
soldiers left, they dumped their leftover food, water, and trash on the
ground in front of the villagers.
By Wednesday evening, after most of the structures had been demolished and
loaded onto trucks, Abu Kbash said that Israeli forces began attempting to
round up the villagers, and force them onto buses.
“They started threatening us, and telling us that they were going to arrest
us all, including the women and children, if we didn’t get on the buses,”
he said, adding that the villagers dispersed and ran up into the
surrounding mountains in order to avoid being detained and bused out of
“This is a clear attempt at forcible transfer, which is a war crime under
international law,” Ghraib said, noting that Israel has previously
attempted to forcibly move the residents of Khirbet Humsah to another area
in the Jordan Valley.
‘This is ethnic cleansing’
While November 2020 marked the first time Khirbet Humsah was completely
destroyed, the villagers, along with dozens of other Bedouin communities in
the Jordan Valley, have been subject to harmful Israeli policies targeting
their communities for decades.
In 1972, Israel declared the area around Khirbet Humsah a “military
training” and “firing” zone, thus making it “illegal” for the residents to
be living there. As a result, the residents are frequently subjected to
demolition orders, as well as forcible evacuations from their homes during
military training exercises.
'Israel is trying to commit another Nakba here in Khirbet Humsah'
- *Harb Abu Kbash, shepherd*
According to UN documentation
approximately 5,000 Palestinians, living in 38 communities, reside in
Israeli military firing zones. The majority of those communities are
Bedouin or herding communities, many of which existed in their respective
areas prior to being closed off by the Israeli military.
Over 80 percent of the communities living in military firing zones are
located in either the Jordan Valley and Dead Sea area, or the south Hebron
hills. Activists say that the designation of such zones as closed military
areas is a tactic used by Israel to kick Palestinians out, and move
“The Jordan Valley is a strategic area for the Israelis. It houses the
majority of Palestine’s water reserves, and is extremely fertile land,”
Ghraib said. “Israel has been clear about its plans to annex this area, and
the continued demolition campaign against Khirbet Humsah is part of that.”
“The restrictions on life in this area are only applied to Palestinians,”
Ghraib added, pointing to the fact that there are a number of Israeli
settlements located just a few kilometres away from the valley in which
Khirbet Humsah sits.
“The settlers are given water, electricity, homes, and land to farm. But
Palestinians aren’t even allowed to live in basic tents," he said. "This is
nothing more than an attempt to forcibly expel these families, and
ethnically cleanse Palestinians from this land.”
‘We will not leave’
As Harb Abu Kbash woke up on Thursday, he took his sheep out to graze, and
stared at the empty land around him.
“What happened yesterday was really terrible,” he said. “It was
devastating. Israel is trying to commit another Nakba here in Khirbet
Humsah. They want to kick us out, and they are using all the means that
they have to do so.”
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Despite threats from Israeli authorities to continue demolishing Khirbet
Humsah until the residents leave the area and relocate, Abu Kbash says that
he and the other families will not leave, no matter what.
“We will die here, but we won't leave this area,” he said. “Israel only has
two options: they need to leave, or kill us here. There is no other option
Both Abu Kbash and Ghraib urged intervention from the international
community, with Ghraib pointing to the fact that the bulldozers that
demolished the homes in Khirbet Humsah were made by international companies
like the US-based Caterpillar Inc.
“We are asking the free people of the world to support us and pressure
their governments to sanction Israel over its crimes,” Ghraib said.
“These private companies that supply Israel with weapons and bulldozers are
complicit in the dispossession of the Palestinian people, and must be held
accountable. They need to be under more pressure to stop supporting
“The world is complicit in what is happening to us and our families,” Abu
Kbash said. “They need to stand up and do something.”
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