Wiping a Village Out of the Map.

This is my first blog text in english. Ahlan wa Sahlan also you non Finnish readers to arjen poikkeustila, which means roughly the state of exception of everyday life. I wish that the next text will be much less depressing.

 Fatmi

Fatmi, pointing to a pile of rubble that used to be a shelter for her sheep.

80 people are left homeless in Hammamat Al Maleh, in Northern Jordan valley after Israel Defence Forces demolished homes and animal shelters of 11 families in the communities of Hammamat Al Maleh and Hammamat Al Meiteh, in the 17th of January 2013.

The destruction was already complete on the morning of 18th of January. Pillows, mattresses, kitchen stoves and clothes were piled around the village. People were homeless, animals without shelter and 55 structures were gone after IDF had completed their operation.

The place looked more like being destroyed by an earthquake than by people. Next morning in the 19th of January, IDF returned to the village and confiscated the rest what was left from the personal possessions of the families together with 18 tents provided by red cross after the demolitions.

Hammamat Al Maleh, Al Meiteh and Al Burj are vulnerable herder communities in also vulnerable Jordan Valley, that is strategically important for Israel and necessity for the future Palestinian state. It constitutes 29 percent of the total area of the West Bank and is fruitful agricultural land for those, who have access to the water resources that are 95 percent in Israeli control. Israel have different means to prevent formation of new viable Palestinian villages in the area, and making life extremely difficult for those, who are still staying in Jordan Valley. It has not only almost a total control over the water resources, but it has also declared 53 percent of the area as a ”state land”, 46 percent military firing zones and closed around 20 percent of the land by declaring nature reserves. One doesn’t need to be an expert in mathematics or in strategical planning to understand that the plan is to clear the area from the Palestinians.

For the past year IDF have executed new forms of displacement of people in the area via temporary eviction orders due to the military training. From the 2nd to the 3rd of January IDF evacuated over 1000 people from their villages in Jordan Valley due to a training. The communities of Hammamat Al Maleh and Meiteh also had temporary eviction orders. Ten families in the villages had demolition orders for the 31st of December 2013 and there was a fear that they could not return to their homes after the evacuation. IDF waited however. In the afternoon of the 3rd people could return to their homes, and exactly two weeks later their homes were destroyed.

The communities are situated between Tayasir checkpoint, an Israeli Military base and a road junction that is easily closed by the army. Around 7 o’clock in the morning of the 17th of January the army entered the village together with the border police and three bulldozers. As the people are living next to a military base, they are used to see soldiers and army vehicles every day, but according to one villager: ”This time the action of the army was worse than ever before. I’ve never seen so many soldiers, and they have never been as aggressive as they were this time.” At the same time when the army entered the Village, they closed Tayasir checkpoint in the West and a road crossing leading to road 578 in the west of the village. Hammamat Al Maleh was completely cut out of the rest of the West Bank and no humanitarian organizations or media were able to enter the area on the day of the demolitions. The villagers were asked to evacuate 300 meters away from the villages, where they were able to observe the act destruction of their lives and homes but unable to do anything to stop it. In 5 hours demolitions were over. The estimations of the number of the soldiers vary between 300 and 1000, situation was complicated and confused and nobody could give an exact number of the soldiers as many of them came by foot from the nearby military base.

The next day International Committee of Red Cross, whose mandate is purely humanitarian and based on the Geneva conventions, was able to deliver first aid tents for those, whose homes were wiped out the day before. Putting up a humanitarian first aid tent on top of the ruins of your old home is not exactly a happy ending. The story could have ended there, but it didn’t. One day after, on the 19th of January, IDF entered once again in to the village and blocked the entrance and exit roads of the area. This time they had fewer men coming with 65 army jeeps, but they were as aggressive. Instead of the bulldozers they came with two big lorries, where they started to gather, not only the ICRC tents but also all personal possessions that people, whose homes were demolished, had. One of the farmers tried to protest and talked with an IDF soldier, who threatened him by saying: ”If you try to put up more tents, we are not only going to confiscate them, but we arrest you and take your sheep too.”

Untill now many of the villagers haven’t put up any tents out of fear of arrests and more confiscations. The main income of the villagers are sheep and they can’t afford loosing their cattle. People are sleeping either with their neighbours, in open shelters or under the stars. Day after the confiscations the governor of Tubas, Marwan Tubas visited the area and asked the people stay in their ßvillage for the resistance. The future of Hammamat Al Maleh doesn’t look very bright as, according the mayor of the village Aref Daragmeh, the whole village have demolition orders by the end of April 2012. Some of the families have orders in the end of February, some in the end of March and the rest in the end of April 2013.

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