“We have been here forever, and now they want to kick us out”
The 51 year old father of 12, Mahmoud Hamamda says that his ancestors have lived in Al-Mufaqqarah village for decades. They had dug caves, bred sheep, and built homes even before the start of the Israeli military occupation on the 1967 Palestinian lands.
Al-Mufaqqarah village, an ancestral inheritance east of Yatta city located in the C area of the southern Hebron Hills, has been demolished for three times so far, and is still threatened with demolition at any second. On the morning of 14 November 1999, all the villagers were deported from their homes for six months. As Mahmoud says, the situation began deteriorating after the 1993 Oslo accords, which divided the West Bank into three areas: the A area (18% of the West Bank) which namely completely falls under PA control, B area (22% of the West Bank), which falls under Palestinian civil administration and Israeli military control, and lastly, the C area, which falls completely under Israeli civil and military administration. The last shattered areas make up to 60% of the occupied West Bank.
Equipped settlements and demolished villages
The small village of 120 residents is surrounded by two fully equipped and ever expanding illegal settlements named Ma’on and Abigail. The settlements are connected through a road which passes by the village.
According to Sawsan Hamamda, 24-year-old resident, the road is shared between the settlers and the villagers. However, the crossing privilege is primarily given to settlers with the help of the Israeli army.
“Sometimes, the soldiers harass us, prevent us from taking the road, or close it down when there is a Jewish holiday,” Sawsan says, “but we challenge them because it is our right to live and move in and out of our own village.”
The Social work graduate also narrated the difficulties she faced while studying, since she had to walk for one solid hour every day to reach her university in the city of Hebron, an another hour on the way back, aside from the Israeli army and settler provocations.
“The settlers here are very aggressive. They hurl stones on us while walking or send their children out to do so. I know that this is a way to pressure us to leave our homes, but we are going on with our steadfastness and we will stay here.”
Even though the two settlements were founded in the early 2000’s, the settlers now have full access to education, housing, water and electricity: civil rights which the Israeli occupation is preventing the villagers from obtaining.
Days of demolition
Sawsan recalls the exact dates and moments when Israeli Forces broke into the village to demolish their home and the village mosque.
“It was a Thursday, 24 November 2011. They came exactly at 10 AM and demolished our home. It was made of cement and stone, and now we moved to my uncle’s small house since he already moved out to another village.”
On the day of the demolition, Sawsan was arrested as she tried to stop the soldiers from carrying out the order, asking for reasons and official papers. Her arrest lasted for eight days, and she was released on a 5000 NIS ($1400) fine.
The family now has a two room house, a tent and a cave that is used for storage. Almost all the tents in the village have been demolished at least two times.
Sawsan, hoping to get a job in her field one day, called for creating popular awareness and taking legal, political action against these Israeli violations whether on a national and international level.
“We just want to live, and this is not a life that any human can endure,” she said.