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Masafer Yatta residents facing forced removal

by Luqmaan Rawat
Residents have taken to living in caves after having their houses demolished

Masafer Yatta – Palestinian villagers in Masafer Yatta are facing mass expulsion after a decade long fight. Their forced removal comes as Israel prepares to use the area for an Israeli army training base.

Israel has placed two policies on Masafer Yatta to evict the residents from there. One is marking the whole area as a firing zone and the other is imposing the settlement policy, said Sami Hureini, coordinator of a small local youth group in Masafer Yatta called Youth of Sumud.

History is repeating itself in Masafer Yatta

This is not the first time Palestinian residents are being forced out of Masafer Yatta. Hureini spoke about an event that occurred in 1999 that saw twelve villages being forcefully evicted from the area. In 2000 the people were able to return to their land but only because of a temporary decision by the Israeli government. This decision has now been reversed after 22 years of fighting it in court, said Hureini.

“The new decision came out on 4 May 2022. We’re talking about 22 years of a legal battle inside Israeli courts. We don’t believe in the Israeli court, but our people didn’t have a lot of options. That’s why we went to court trying to get some justice. It decided to commit this world crime again and to evict us from our land with our people but this time it is only for eight villages.”

Life has become much harder in Masafer Yatta since the court decision

Since the decision was made, Israeli government has tried to make life as difficult as they can for residents. The army has already started using the area for military training. It is as if they are treating the area as a war zone and not one where people are living, said Hureini.

“They want to make life harder. Today a car was confiscated. We are talking about harassing the Palestinian shepherds. They are using helicopters in Masafer Yatta in order to do this military training in order to scare the people, to scare the animals, to scare everything. Military tanks are destroying all the agricultural lands and the roads. We’re talking about them using live ammunition for training. These bullets hit houses. They are also arresting people without any charge.”

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Israel is on an operation to demolish everything

Villagers constantly go to bed and wake up fearing that it might be their home next that is demolished. Schools and mosques are also being targeted by the Israeli government. Those whose houses have been demolished now live in caves trying to make do with what little they have left.

“Israel has committed to an operation of demolishing. We wake up every day expecting people to come and demolish the schools, the homes, the masjids. Everything here is facing the threat of demolition. They want to cleanse the Palestinian lives that exist in this land and in this area completely. It is unfair and unjust. Israel is doing this without caring about any international law.”

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The international community has ignored their struggles

While Israel continues to destroy homes and lives, the world watches on. Hureini feels let down by the international community as nothing has been done to stop this. No matter how much attention he has tried to bring to the situation, he feels as if no one really cares.

“We have been trying to raise awareness about the situation we are facing in order to have the international community hold Israel accountable. Even though we have tried, there hasn’t been any serious action by the international community.”

Those who live in Masafer Yatta have pledged to never leave the land of their ancestors. The elderly has also been defiant in moving. For Hureini, this is how they show their defiance. By staying on the land that belongs to them. He has urged all those who care to spread the word of what is happening in Masafer Yatta in the hopes that many voices will make it impossible for the international community to ignore.

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