This is the ninth of ten blog posts focused on the stories compiled by OCHA of 50 Palestinians living under 50 years of Occupation. The entire 50 stories can be found at OCHA’s website here. Each story tells of a personal hardship which exemplifies life under Israeli occupation. The story about Khirbet Khamis in this batch strikes me especially hard. I can’t imagine the degrading and dehumanizing existence that these families have been forced to live under. The Occupation must end, with or without Israel’s consent.
FAT-HALLAH ABU RIDAH
Since the early 1980s the village has lost much of its land for the construction of an Israeli settlement.
The residents have suffered from regular attacks by Israeli settlers. These incidents have severely undermined their physical security and livelihoods.
Between January and September 2011, OCHA recorded a total of 16 incidents resulting in casualties or property damage, perpetrated in the village by Israeli settlers.
Fat-hallah is a farmer who sustained damages in a settler attack on 6 October 2011. When we met him shortly after, he told us:
❝I consider these 80 damaged trees to be like my children. My wife and I planted them 15 years ago, and have been raising them together with our children.
❝My wife and my daughter used to carry the water on their heads and walk over 300 metres in order to irrigate these trees, while myself and the children spent over three years collecting stones from the land to build these small stone walls all around in order to protect the land.
❝We have always tried to protect our land and our trees, but this time they came at night.
“The Israeli forces restrict our movements in the village in order to protect the settlers while they damage our land.
❝This is the fifth time this has happened; around twenty days ago, the settlers shot me in my leg with live ammunition, and also hit my two sons.❞
We met Mufeed, then 47 years old, father of five, in 2013. He lives in an old three story house located in Ash Shuhada Street, with his brother, also father of five, and his mother.
This street was once the main commercial artery of Hebron city, and a densely populated residential area.
In 1994, following the killing of 29 Palestinians by an Israeli settler, the Israeli authorities closed it for Palestinian traffic; later, following the outbreak of the second Intifada in 2000, most of the street was closed for Palestinian pedestrian movement as well, and hundreds of shops were shut down.
The Israeli authorities justified these restrictions as a means of protecting Israelis living in settlements along the street, which contravene international law.
❝Our life in Shuhada Street is almost like living in a prison,❞ Mufeed told us. ❝Every time we enter or exit the street we have to pass through a checkpoint, and have our belongings checked.
❝Our children are deprived of all aspects of childhood. They are not free to play down the street with a ball or ride a bike because most times they get harassed by settlers.
❝Israeli forces invade our house anytime they want; each time something wrong happens down the street near the house, our children are accused of it, and they get interrogated.
❝When there is a health emergency, for the ambulance to get here it needs prior coordination. We feel so isolated, our friends and relatives don’t visit us because it’s difficult for them to get here.
❝Nothing is normal here, but at the end of the day this is my home, I inherited from my father, it means so much to me, I was born here, all my life and memories are here, and I will not leave here except when I die.❞
On 23 March 2016, Sabrin and her family became homeless.
It happened when Israeli authorities destroyed 53 structures in the Palestinian community of Khirbet Tana, in one of the largest incidents since OCHA began systematically tracking demolitions in 2009.
The targeted structures included 22 homes, resulting in the displacement of 87 people, among them 35 children and 22 women. The picture above was taken after that demolition incident.
On 3 January 2017, Sabrin and her family lost their home again, a tent that was erected as a shelter following the previous demolition.
The picture below was taken following that demolition, where Israeli authorities demolished 49 structures including 30 structures that had been donated to the families.
This second incident displaced eight families of fifty members, including 22 children, and otherwise affected ten families of 72 members, including 35 children.
Khirbet Tana is located in an Israeli-declared firing zone. All the families there have faced demolition at least once during 2016, when the Israeli authorities carried out a series of four demolitions between February and April.
All in all, OCHA has documented 13 demolition incidents between 2010 and January 2017 in Khirbet Tana.
MOHAMMAD AL QUNBAR
Surkhi Qunbar is a small neighborhood, located on the ‘Jerusalem’ side of the West Bank Barrier.
It takes its name from two families that were cut off by the Barrier from the remainder of the neighborhood of As Sawahira Ash Sharqiya.
While it is located in an area which was unilaterally annexed to Israel, not all of its residents have been given Jerusalem ID cards.
Some carry West Bank ID cards and can only ‘legally’ reside in their own homes if they have special Israeli-issued staying permits.
Community members cannot freely access the rest of East Jerusalem, and are also severely restricted from accessing the rest of the West Bank.
Recorded in 2014, this video was part of OCHA’s interactive map project, which marked the tenth anniversary to the West Bank Barrier by illustrating its impact on Palestinian communities in and around East Jerusalem.
❝Our lives have become so complicated, and we are under enormous pressure, psychological, financial and social.❞
Now home to a few dozens, Khirbet Khamis was among several communities that were incorporated into the Jerusalem municipal boundary and unilaterally annexed to Israel.
However, unlike the vast majority of Palestinians in the annexed areas, Khirbet Khamis’ residents were issued West Bank, instead of Jerusalem, ID cards. As a result, under Israeli law, they are considered “illegal residents” in their own homes.
Khirbet Khamis has become an ❝open air prison❞ for its residents, says Fuad Jado, a 55-year-old father of five.
❝Our lives have become so complicated, and we are under enormous pressure… We are not allowed to work in Israel although our community has been illegally annexed and we are now cut off from the rest of the West Bank on the Jerusalem side of the Wall.
❝Sometimes the soldiers throw them away if they think the quantities exceed our daily consumption; other times we do it ourselves to avoid waiting for permission to enter.
❝What are we supposed to do? They don’t allow us to shop in Jerusalem, so we sometimes have no choice but to rely on friends from Jerusalem to buy things for us or risk going to Jerusalem markets ourselves.❞
Based on a publication on dislocated communities focusing on the case of Khirbet Khamis | November 2013.