Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Israeli army: leave Khirbet Tana or else

by Cecile Gault 

Palestine Monitor 

Last week, the Israeli army ordered the inhabitants of a small shepherd village near Nablus to vacate the premises because their homes were to be demolished. The village was destroyed, but Khirbet Tana’s men are still there, every day welcoming PA officials and NGO and international organisations’ workers coming to assess the rebuilding costs. They sleep in the mosque - the only structure that was left standing - and in makeshift tents, leaving their fate, in their own words, ‟in the hands of God.”

JPG - 212.9 kb

What remains of the village’s elementary school
Khirbet Tana had already been demolished twice before, one time in July 2005 and another one just about a year ago, in January 2010. In both instances, the village was rebuilt, mostly thanks to funding from international NGOs. Tana’s people are used to the process by now. This time around, though, the situation is a bit different. Just a few days ago, Israel issued a warning to the 35 families living there, threatening to seize their sheep and remaining property should they still refuse to leave the area permanently and try to rebuild again. According to Ghassan Douglas, the PA official responsible for handling problems related to settler activity and home demolitions, it is the first time that the threats are this serious.

‟The Israelis want to create a de facto situation [of abandoned territories] by scaring or forcing people away from their homes,” Douglas said. ‟They also want control over these lands because they are strategically located close to the Jordan valley and they want to monitor what’s going on the other side.”
The Beit Fourik municipality - of which Khirbet Tana is an extension - has launched judicial proceedings to protest the eviction, thus temporarily freezing the situation. Ahmad Mazen Nasasreh, Beit Fourik’s executive secretary, said that according to area lines, the Khirbet Tana area falls under Israeli authority. The roads leading to it are bad because they are not allowed to be asphalted, making the short distance between Beit Fourik and Tana into an excruciatingly slow trip. The area was declared military training ground last year by an Israeli court, Nasasreh said, but actual training has yet to happen there. To Beit Fourik officials, it is just another Israeli strategy to get control over a land they have no claim to.
JPG - 172.7 kb

Atif Hussein Ahmed Hanani (left) and two other villagers
Atif Hussein Ahmed Hanani has been living in Khirbet Tana his whole life, just like his father and grand-father before him. He remembers when, in 1968, the Israeli army killed 25 animals belonging to the shepherds, hoping it would convince them to move out. In 1986, in another attempt to tire them into leaving of their own volition, the soldiers confiscated the sheep, telling the villagers they would have to buy them back. Every single animal was bought back, approximately USD 7 a piece.
‟Ever since, they have tried everything many times,” Hanani said, “including killing our sheep and demolishing our homes, to make us leave.”

Last week, over a hundred soldiers came to the village, knocking on each door to force the occupants out, house by house so the villagers could not regroup. As Hanani was trying to save whatever little possessions he could, they tried to beat him, but their captain prevented it. Each family had gathered their belongings and put them to the side so they would not be destroyed along with the houses. The soldiers however, according to Hanani, ordered them to put them back inside and demolished everything while they watched, powerless, from afar.

‟We were too scared of the soldiers to do anything,” he said. Then army threatened to confiscate the animals if the shepherds rebuild again.
Now, everyone is waiting: for the court decision that will determine what the soldiers are allowed to do; for international organizations and NGOs to assess the damage and release the funds necessary to reconstruction. In the meantime, the women and the children have been sent to stay in Beit Fourik, while the men remain on their land, waiting.
When asked what they expect from PA officials and international workers present, they reply with a shrug and a tired smile: ‟We don’t expect anything from anyone but God.”

No comments:

Post a Comment