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The Struggle of South Hebron Hills Village to Keep Living on its Land

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By Operation Dove

AT-TUWANI, SOUTH HEBRON HILLS, June 14, 2012 (WAFA) - On the only road that connects the area of Massafer Yatta with the city of Yatta and the rest of the West Bank, a tractor was carrying building material towards the village of At-Tuwani.

It was June 8 and at 8 p.m. two jeeps from the Israeli army were waiting for it. The tractor driver was stopped and forced to go back.

After a while the soldiers stopped another tractor and order the driver to turn back, but this time the driver refused. The soldiers then surrounded him and forced him to wait for the police.

After hearing this news, around 30 Palestinians coming from the villages of At-Tuwani, Al Mufaqarah and Ar Rakeez reached that place but were not able to approach the tractor; suddenly, a group of about 15 women crossed the checkpoint and started walking towards the tractor, ignoring the orders of the soldiers.

In a couple of minutes the pressure of those women made it possible to break through the roadblock, and the soldiers, disarmed by the women’s strong will, had to step aside and let the tractor go to the village.

On the same day in the village of Al Mufaqarah during the afternoon, the Israeli army, together with the police, kept another Palestinian that was carrying building material and the inhabitants intervened in order to avoid his arrest.

These events, related to the permanent control of the area, are part of the Israeli strategy to boycott the nonviolent campaign “Al-Mufaqarah R-Exist”; this last was launched on May 19 by the local community of Al Mufaqarah, the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee and the South Hebron Hills Popular Resistance Committee, and follows the path of the village of At-Tuwani.

The target is to build 15 houses and to defend the legitimate right of this Palestinian community to exist on their own land.

Every Saturday a group of Palestinians, Israeli activists and other internationals work together in order to build those new houses, but since the very beginning of the campaign the Israeli army has tried several times to discourage the initiative; in fact, on June 2, the nonviolent action didn't take place because of the strong military presence on the area that prevented the delivery of the building materials.

On June 10, the Israeli civil administration and the army delivered in the village of Al Mufaqarah three stop working orders, one of them designed to the first house built during the campaign: this means that whoever will be caught working on these projects will be arrested.

Furthermore, if the inhabitants will not appeal to the High Court before June 21, the buildings will receive a demolition order.

Al Mufaqarah is located in the C area of the West Bank, which is under Israeli civil and military control: within this area every construction has to receive the permit to be built by the Israeli civil administration.

The purpose of this is clearly to prevent the development of Palestinian communities, rejecting every building permit and demolishing anything considered “illegal”. At the same time, the Israeli settlements and outposts in the area, even though are illegal under the international law, are continuously expanding, and the settlers keep attacking and bothering the Palestinians.

This policy of restrictions, enclosures, demolitions, evacuations and abuse, together with the violence carried on by the settlers in the area, actually denies the human rights of the Palestinians, threatening their everyday life on their own lands.

Nevertheless, the South Hebron Hills Palestinian communities have not surrendered and have decided to resist in a nonviolent way to the occupation.

The existence of the village of Al Mufaqarah has always been violated by those strategies of oppression that aim at the evacuation of the community, but at the same time this is a great example of nonviolence resistance.

In 1999, Al Mufaqarah and other 12 villages received an order of evacuation as they were located in the “Firing Zone” (military training area). The inhabitants though never gave up and appealed to the Supreme Court, which, after six months, recognized their right to go back to their lands.

Al Mufaqarah nonviolent struggle is not over: last autumn, the community tried to connect the electricity network from the village of At-Tuwani, and they started building the pylons in order to bring the light.

Unfortunately, at 7 a.m. on November 3, an excavator escorted by 25 soldiers demolished all of them. After a few weeks, two bulldozers escorted by the army broke into the village and pulled down one after another, two houses, a cowshed, the mosque and structure of the current generator.

While doing this, a Palestinian girl, rushing to take her things from her house that was about to be demolished, was suffocated from tear gas thrown by the soldiers; after making her kneel, they arrested her and her cousin, who was trying to get her some water for relief.

The very next day hundreds of people from the South Hebron Hills reached the old rubble of the mosque and began to pray. After that, they immediately started the reconstruction of the village, previously cut down by a stop-working order.

These villages will not vanish from the maps. These villages will not stop their nonviolent struggle for their right to exist. Al Mufaqarah, At-Tuwani and the other communities exist and resist. Al-Mufaqarah R-Exist campaign will go on, because one rebuilt wall is worth more than 100 demolished houses, because a tractor unchained by 15 women is worth more than a hundred roads blocked by the soldiers.

Every Saturday, in Al Mufaqarah, people are building.

(Operation Dove is a non-violent international peace movement working to help Palestinians in the South Hebron Hills live in peace on their land.)

M.S.

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