Masafer Yatta - evacuation danger

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Michal (reporting and photographing) and Muhammad. Editor: Mira Balaban; Translator: Natanya
ח'לת א-דבע - שלטי מחאה

Masafer Yatta: the area where twelve Palestinian settlements are on the verge of demolition. Over a thousand people are facing deportation. We do not include any of the illegal outposts established in the area. Yatta light of the news about the impending deportation, we went to meet residents in the communities who  are subject to deportation, and to get updated.


We met Jum’a Rabai and Nasser Adara. We have known Jum’a for nearly twenty years, since the beginning of the reports about the abuses committed by the residents of the Havat Ma'on outpost, on the hill just above At-Tuwani. Jum’a speaks fluent Hebrew and sends regards to Hagit and hopes to see her soon.

At the entrance to At-Tuwani on both sides of the road behind the cement barriers stand soldiers and behind them the Israeli flag. When we returned, neither they nor the flag were there.

Jum’a shows us videos of unidentified people walking in the areas between At-Tuwani and Ma'on farm, which belong to Hafez al-Huraini . (Following his attack by a settler from Ma'on farm several months ago, it was Hafez who was arrested and not the attacking settler). The residents of At-Tuwani are trying to fence off their plots so that the settlers cannot enter. But then the settlers with the help of the army destroy these fences. A kind of war of attrition.

Jum’a stories about the residents' arrests:

A few days ago, a relative was arrested near the fence between the West Bank and Israel, on the Palestinian side. But he was arrested as an illegal worker, and was apparently taken to a detention center in Gush Etzion. He was tied to a chair for three days, blindfolded, without food or water and without sleep. They did not interrogate or talk to him. After three days he was released just like that, without any investigation or explanation. The villagers had searched for the man - they did not understand where he had gone, but the military authorities said that the man was not with them.

Another story: Four months ago, his son was arrested for days. He also tied and thrown on the floor, without food or drink. When his son was released, he, Jum’a, received a call from someone who identified himself as Itamar Ben-Gvir. Jum’a did not answer the call. After investigation, it turned out that even before the establishment of the government, all the families of the detaineesinfo-icon received a phone number which was identified as Ben-Gvir.

One of the residents answered the phone and Ben-Gvir (or whoever was on the other end, human or automatic, announced that soon his son would be released.

Jum’a says that in general there is a worsening of the soldiers' behaviour towards the residents. They suspect the collaboration between Ben-Gvir and the army.

They live in constant fear. When the children go alone, there is no certainty where they will end up, how they will return, and what will happen to them on the way. There used to be a feeling that there was a law, indeed one law for the Jews and one for the Palestinian residents, but at least there is a law. Now there is no law at all! The settlers allow themselves to do whatever they want.

Jum’a says that he is tired and physically exhausted from the day-to-day war with the problems which the neighbours from Ma'on Farm cause and which has been going on for many years. A real feeling of living in a war zone.

Khalet a-Daba and Shu’b al-Butum:

These two villages are included in an area that has been declared a fire area, and are threatened by demolition. We went with Nasser Adara to Khalet a-Daba. He tells us that, in the meantime, the residents have not received written demolition orders, only oral notifications. We also met Nasser Nawaja’a from Susiya ( an investigator at  B’tselem), and Bassel Adara (son of Nasser Adra, who writes in the Hebrew paper, Sihah Mekomit). They returned from the Mitzpe Yair area, and said that once again the flocks of the settlers came into the Palestinian fields, ate the budding wheat which had started to grow, and trampled everything.

Naser Nawaja’a says that there is a dialogue going on with the government offices , in an attempt to convince the Palestinians to evacuate by agreement and not resist. The demolition date was set for September, but demolition orders have not yet been received.

In the distance on the hills, in the Shu’b al-Butum area, we saw vehicles. Our hosts recognized them as the cars of the DCO, and guess they are handing out demolition orders. They say that recently, soldiers have been entering houses (caves, tents, shanties) at night, taking pictures of the ID cards in order to verify who the permanent residents are. Of course, that wakes and scares everyone.