From the Firing Zone
We set out early this morning for Firing Zone 918 in the South Hebron Hills. Before entering the zone however, we visited a school. The issue there was that one classroom had been demolished a while back. There had been no recent activity and it seemed to be running well.
All the villages in the firing zone has demolition orders so we thought we would try to reach some of them. They had not been visited by the previous EAPPI team. We had to go by foot since our driver and vehicle would be prohibited. Indeed, as you see by the sign, no one can come into the zone. We walked many kilometers before reaching the first village situated near the ‘wall’ or where the wall would be once it is constructed. The villagers offered us tea, as we receive everywhere we go. People are very friendly. Their livelihood seemed to be animals – sheep, goats, chickens, turkeys and some agriculture. The season for ploughing and planting is close as the rains will be starting. Indeed we have had some already. After tea, we headed to the next village. Everywhere hills and from the tops, you can see villages in the distance. We managed to reach the second village and also found the people friendly and one lady could speak some English. We found out that their has been no incidents to report concerning the villages. They have had demolition orders since 2012 but they have not been followed through on. By this time it was well after lunch and we had to find our way back to the main road. It took another hour. All we had with us was water and an apple and a banana to split between us. We had no cell phone reception in the Firing Zone so called our driver when we were near the main (dirt) road. He came with a jeep and thought he would show us an area from which we could see the desert, a small glimpse of the dead sea and the mountains of Jordan. In the distance we could also make out a caravan of camels.
That may have been a good day if not for what followed.
We received word that the village of Um Al Kher may again have the military come for more demolitions. So we headed straight there.
Just to fill you in. Since the last demolition (see http://searching4justice.co/2014/10/31/a-running-start/ and https://searching4justice.com/2014/11/02/the-first-2-days-of-november/ ) the village received new toilets and tents from the Palestinian Authority. The men of the village hid the toilets. Two days ago, they took down the tents and put up a makeshift structure of scrape and such. They were afraid the military would come again and if they did, the villagers did not want them to see the new tents. We arrived at the village and shortly thereafter, Operation Dove also arrived as did some media. Some women in the village made us bread – flat & thin and very good. It was then that in the distance we saw vehicles. A large truck and military jeeps. Very disheartening. They came and told us to leave. We had to watch from a distance. Once the military and truck left, we went to assess the damage.
The army had found the tents – they seemed to know that the village had them and they demolished the makeshift housing. One older man collapsed and the ambulance had to be called. He seemed to be okay after awhile. One young man asked where his family would sleep – under the rain? He also said they just want to live and care for his family and tend his livestock They do not harm anyone and yet this happens. Who are the terrorists, he asks. I feel his pain. And even more painful is our inability to do anything to make his situation better.
Thanks for the update, Ineke. Laura has my email address. Please email me as I have other questions for you and the team. Thanks for being there. Jan