Dangerous zigzags along 14 kilometers are the first thing that greets you on the unpaved and rugged rocky road that residents cross on foot or on animal back. It took us more than an hour in a four-wheel drive car, from the bypass road, to an Israeli checkpoint set up by the occupation forces at the entrances to some villages and ruins after declaring the area “Firing Zone 918”, which only residents of ruins and villages are allowed to cross.
Here, time stops for you, as there are no electricity networks, telephones, sanitation, or roads, as the people of Masafer Yatta live a primitive life in tents and dwellings made of tin or in caves, all of which lack the minimum conditions for human life, and they are isolated from the outside world in addition to Chaining it to more than eight settlements or outposts and a number of training camps for the occupation army that torture families. Despite the harshness of life, no less than 1,200 residents of Masafer Yatta, who are threatened with forced displacement, refuse to give up their right to their land, and affirm their adherence to it no matter what happens.
Al-Mosafer consists of 23 khirbets and villages inhabited by the people of Yatta and Bedouins who were displaced from the areas of Beersheba and the Negev. Including 8 ruins inhabited by 1,200 Palestinians who are threatened with eviction, after declaring closed military areas for the purposes of the so-called “918 firing” areas. As a result, the communities in which they live became vulnerable to a series of policies and practices that undermined the security of the population and increased the deterioration of their living conditions, high levels of poverty and dependence on humanitarian assistance, in addition to that, these communities became at risk of forced displacement.
The people of Al-Musafir were subjected to a process of displacement in 1999, followed by dozens of demolitions of homes, schools and mosques.
Masafer Yatta is located between bypass road 317 to the 1949 armistice line from the south, and its lands overlap with the lands of 1948, all of which are classified as areas (C) and are completely under the control of the Israeli occupation.
“Here is my land, my hometown, the land of my father and grandfather, here everything means to me. We inherited from our ancestors the land, the pastures and the caves, and we will stand firm because our land belongs to us. We cannot leave it, and our descendants will also inherit it, and they will not leave it,” said the Palestinian citizen Khaled Jabarin ( 53 years old) from Khirbet Janba in Masafer Yatta.
He added, “We live in severe suffering because of the occupation and its settlers. Our land is targeted, and the occupation government encourages settlers to attack us, and they try to expel us from our land, but we will not get out of it, no matter what happens.”
He pointed out that since the beginning of the fifties of the last century, the Israeli occupation began targeting the Al-Mosafer area, and four of its residents were martyred at the time, and until this moment, the people suffer from daily attacks from the occupation forces and settlers who attack the shepherds and the citizens’ homes, which forced all families to put iron protections on their windows.
From Khirbet al-Mufqarah, Palestinian Noman Hamamda says: “The occupation has dominated and forced us. We suffer from the restrictions imposed by the occupation forces and settlers on the shepherds of sheep, preventing us from grazing our livestock and from plowing the land.”
He added, “We were born on the land of the traveler, and our entire history goes back to this land, and we will remain patient and steadfast, and only death will get us out of it.”
For her part, Rabia Hamamda (70 years old) from Khirbet al-Mufaqara said, “My grandchildren and I live in this house, and I will die in it. The occupation and its settlers are attacking us, and we will not leave our land no matter what happens.”
In a cave that her and her family inherited from her husband’s grandfather, Naima Hamamda, 50, the mother of 8 children from Khirbet Jenbah, ignites tabun to make bread and cook food in the absence of cooking gas in villages and ruins, and says: “The tabun fire is not extinguished in the traveler.”
A cave with a woman working on baking taboon. Favorite
She added, “The family previously owned more than 250 heads of sheep, and now we have only 150 heads left. All families suffered from a decline in the number of livestock due to the high price of feed and water and the restrictions imposed on the traveler’s family in the pastures by the settlers and the Israeli occupation soldiers.”
“The conditions of citizens in Masafer Yatta carry with it chapters of persecution, neglect, harassment and displacement at the hands of the Israeli occupation forces, which destroy the basics of their lives under various pretexts, including a firing zone or settlement expansion,” says Nidal Abu Aram, head of the Musafir village council.
He adds that the majority of the people of the villages and ruins threatened with displacement in Masafer Yatta have property documents dating back to the Ottoman Caliphate period.
The people of villages and ruins live on raising livestock and sheep and on agriculture to a lesser extent. They have been subjected to the policy of deportation and forced displacement by the Israeli occupation, threats and deprivation of any rights, and they lack the basic infrastructure and services.
He continued: The families suffer from restrictions in an attempt to push them to leave their lands and refrain from practicing the profession of their fathers and grandfathers in sheep herding, as the occupation forces and settlers sought to prevent the shepherds from grazing, in addition to the high price of fodder that exceeds the financial capacity of the herders, so raising sheep has become a burden on them. Their needs are met, which prompted the majority of young men and women to work in the territories occupied in 1948 and leave the care of sheep to their wives and daughters.
Regarding the water networks, Abu Aram said: “A water network was established in the threatened villages and ruins in 2018 with the support of the European Union and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and implemented by the Organization Against Hunger (ACF). In 2019, it was attacked by the occupation forces, which cut off more than From 5 kilometers of extensions, and 10 kilometers of them were completely destroyed, which prompted the people of the traveler to rely on water collection wells to this day.”-
He pointed out that the villages and the ruins were supplied with solar cells in stages, as it supplied Al-Fakhit, Wasfi and Maghair Al-Abeed in 2011, while central solar cells were planted for the gathering in 2016 in Al-Markaz, Janba, Halawi, Al-Majaz, and Khallet Al-Dabaa.--
He pointed out that the blockade and restrictions did not stop the aspirations of the residents of the threatened villages and ruins in building 5 primary schools, in which children are forced to walk four kilometers to reach the classrooms. In the village of Al-Fakhit, there is only one secondary school, to which students have to walk more than seven kilometers. The success of the educational process depends on the mood of the occupation soldiers by allowing the school staff and students to pass through a closed military gate with special permits and searches, and the accompanying humiliation and humiliation every day, and distress for the students who are already exhausted from the journey of their arrival to the school on horseback or on foot, in the mountains Rugged and in harsh weather conditions.
He pointed out that the illiteracy rate among the traveler’s children is close to the illiteracy rate in Palestine, and that females are more interested in university studies.
A school in the village of Asfi was demolished in 2022, and the occupation seized the tent in which the students were studying.
Regarding health care, he said: “There is a simple health clinic that operates one day a week. It provides patients with chronic diseases with medicines and conducts some clinical examinations,” referring to the issuance of a demolition order by the occupation authorities for the local health clinic.
He pointed out that the ruins and villages suffer from rugged streets and the absence of paved roads that facilitate the movement of citizens and their transportation and serve the gatherings.
Palestinians in Area C, specifically in Masafer Yatta, sought refuge in caves, and families renovated and rehabilitated them to make them habitable, to face the threat of demolition and displacement pursued by Israel, which prohibits construction in these areas, and considers Palestinian homes there illegal.
Regarding the caves, Nidal Abu Aram, head of the Traveler Council, said, “Since the 1980s, dozens of families have intended to live in the scattered caves, and also use them for livestock and sheep, in order to confront the occupation authorities’ decision to deport them and demolish their homes.”
He explained that the villages and ruins threatened with displacement have more than 300 inhabited or habitable caves, a number of which date back to the Canaanite era, in addition to a water pool that is used until now and dates back to the same era in Khirbet Jenbah, while there are caves and caves dating back to the Ottoman era.
He pointed out that the basic demand of the people of the traveler, who is threatened with forced displacement, is that they remain safe in their villages and allow them to build, provide a source of livelihood for the families through economic support for them and provide them with fodder and water, in addition to strengthening peaceful popular resistance to support and strengthen their steadfastness, and pressure from the international community to stop their displacement.
He called on Palestinian and international civil institutions to develop projects to support the steadfastness of the people of the traveler, and the need to activate the interventions of international organizations, donors and Palestinian non-governmental organizations within the framework of his mission to protect and enhance their existence, and to achieve more equity for them in development and services.
In the cave, or “Al-Tur,” as the traveler’s family calls it, Noman Hamamdeh (58 years old) from Khirbet al-Mufaqara lives with his wife and daughter. He says: I inherited the cave from my grandfather, who re-dug it himself.
He adds that the cave in which his family lives is an estimated area of 80 square meters, and it consists of a kitchen, a bedroom and a living room, stressing that the caves formed a refuge for the traveler’s family from the harsh weather conditions, and now they constitute a haven for them from demolishing homes and attempting forced displacement, especially after the traveler declared a launch area. fire.
He pointed out that he has ownership inventory papers for 12 dunums of land he owns in Al-Mosafer, and that he owns another cave in which he used to raise livestock before he was forced to sell them due to the difficult situation and the futility of raising livestock due to the high prices of feed and water.
Mahmoud Zawahra, who was delegated from the Wall Resistance and Settlement Committee to support the people of Masafer Yatta, believes that the caves have become a haven for citizens in Area C of the West Bank, due to Israeli policies that target the Palestinian presence.
Regarding the authority’s role, he said that it has, during the past years, provided logistical support to citizens in Area C, including Masafer Yatta, and has renovated and rehabilitated a number of abandoned and previously uninhabited caves, making them habitable and accommodating Palestinian families, pointing out that the occupation authorities prevent the entry of materials The building is for the traveler, and that the authority is in the process of establishing a museum of the material and moral history of the traveler’s family.
He stressed that the decision to forcibly deport the residents of the traveler’s family is a political decision aimed at controlling and appropriating the citizens’ lands to serve the settlement projects, and linking the settlement of “Kiryat Arba” with settlements south of Hebron with the lands of the 48 lands, which ends the possibility of establishing a contiguous Palestinian state geographically.
He warned of the dangers resulting from the displacement of the people of Masafer Yatta, which will facilitate the settlement process and the construction of a series of settlements similar to those of “Gush Etzion”, “Ariel” and “Ma’ale Adumim” and linking them with a network of roads and infrastructure with the south, specifically with Tel Arad and Beersheba, and these The operation will constitute an ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian population in that area, and will lead to the obliteration of the unique Palestinian cultural heritage in the place, and will affect the livelihood of hundreds of families who live on livestock and agriculture, calling for the need to strengthen popular resistance to support the steadfastness of the people of the traveler.