Obstacles to peace in the South Hebron Hills

Dear friends,

Today I visited three villages in the extreme south of the West Bank, in Area C, which is an area under strict control of the Israeli military since the Oslo accords.  Numerous Israeli settlements have been constructed in Area C, taking up the area’s natural resources for their use and crowding out the local population by denying them access to their land. The settlements are illegal under international law.  The region is extremely dry as it is near the Negev desert, and water must be trucked to the people living there.

One of the villages, Mantiqat Shi’b al Butum, is a small tent village consisting of a few  extended families.   In this village, access to water has been made very precarious.  Most recently, on August 11th the Israeli military has moved a boulder into the road leading to the village, making passage of trucks into the village impossible.  The family we visited was very worried about the rock.  Previously, they removed it with a tractor, but the military put it back on august 26th and told them that if they moved it again they would build a wall to block this road.

A similar strategy of the military was used against the village of Wadi J’hesh, nearby.  Wadi J’hesh consists of only two extended families whose livelihood is shepherding.  Here the military has erected a mound of earth to completely block the dirt road leading to the village.  No vehicle can drive to the dwellings, which must be accessed by walking. No reason is given for these road closures, which have the effect of making life very difficult for the people. Not only water, but food and fodder for the animals must be brought in on these roads.  The strategy has the effect of making life on the land nearly impossible for the people.  But they persist because of their love for their land.

We also visited the village of Susiya.  Here, families who were previously cave dwellers were relocated to the area by the military. Now settlers in the nearby illegal settlement of Suseya regularly harass the family.  Recently, settlers torched one of the family’s tents during the night while people were sleeping inside it.  We were told that this occurred around 1 in the morning.  Fortunately, the smell of the smoke woke the people, who were able to escape and put out the fire.

EAPPI volunteers provide advocacy by sharing these stories globally in order to make people aware of the effects of the occupation, especially the harassment by settlers and the Israeli military against the people.  We also make regular visits to the village to protect them by international presence.  Please share these stories widely in hopes of helping these vulnerable people.

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