Background

Over 40% of the West Bank is under Israeli occupation: settlements and their subsidiary infrastructures such as settler passby roads, the Apartheid Wall, checkpoints and military bases have led to the expropriation of thousands of dunums of Palestinian land, chocking the Palestinians in dire conditions. In 2005, while Israel evacuated its 8,200 settlers from the Gaza Strip, its settler population in the West Bank increased by some 12,000. And the problem of impunity enjoyed by extremist settlers, often benefiting from the leniency of the police and the Israeli army, is recurring…

Al Mufaqara is one of a dozen communities situated in South Hebron Hills, in a so proclaimed firing zone area adjacent to the Green Line. Its residents, gathered in around 16 family units, are permanently living in caves and shacks, farming and grazing, as their ancestors did. Surrounded by 4 settlements – Karmel and Ma’on at north; Suseya and Mezadot Yehuda on the west side –, the 7.500 acre firing zone was proclaimed during the ’70, but any enforcement action had been taken since the end of ’90.

On 5 October 1999, just a week after a first dismantlement of the already reconstituted illegal outpost of Havat Ma’on, the residents of all the communities in the closed area except al Mufaqara received an evacuation order. Al- Mufaqara inhabitants were warned only on the 15th of November, just 24 hours before Israeli soldiers arrived. The next day the Israeli army destroyed the tents, sealed the caves, dispersed the flocks and evacuated the residents to the other side of road 317. Some of them took refuge in tents in the village of al-Tuwani. The cave dwellers appealed to the High Court that six months later allowed them to go back since the decision on the area final status.

Six years ago, Israeli authorities built an 80 cm wall along road 317, de facto cutting any connection between the village of al- Tuwani, the people living in the closed area and the vital city of Yatta. A petition was filed in the High Court of justice, which ruled the dismantlement of the wall.
The forced displacement of people and the construction of the wall testify Israeli attempts to empty and isolate the region from the rest of the area in order to annex it. Residents are also exposed to settlers’ attacks, which began systematic after the foundation of Havat Ma’on.

Nowadays, the community of al Mufaqara is still facing several problems. People live in caves and tents, without electricity and running water, in a constant situation of uncertainty. Authorizations to build are systematically denied and most of the structures of the villages have pendent demolition orders, despite the existence of official documents proving the inhabitants property of the land.

On 24th November 2011, Israeli army demolished the mosque, two houses, a cattle shed, the generator building and arrested two girls. The next day men from all the area came to pray in the village and started working at the rebuilding of the mosque, showing great solidarity and their strong willing to preserve their land. After this episode ACTED (Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development) with funds being available from the Humanitarian Relief Fund (HRF), managed by UN OCHA, and delivered three mobile houses, which don’t constitute a housing solution in keeping with the traditions of the inhabitants. Also, all these houses have recently received a stop-working order expiring on the 29th of May.

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