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From the field

For the second time this winter, the Civil Administration has demolished all the structures in Khirbet ‘Ein Karzaliyah, leaving the residents exposed to the elements

The access road to the community, blocked by the Civil Administration. Photo: 'Aref Daraghmeh, B'Tselem
The access road to the community, blocked by the Civil Administration. Photo: 'Aref Daraghmeh, B'Tselem

This morning, 4 March 2015, the Civil Administration demolished all the structures in the community of Khirbet ‘Ein Karzaliyah in the northern Jordan Valley, for the second time since the beginning of the year. Civil Administration bulldozers razed the dirt road leading to the community, which is now no longer accessible by car.

Khirbet ‘Ein Karzaliyah is a small shepherding community living in the northern Jordan Valley, about five kilometers southwest of the village of al-Jiftlik. The land on which the community is situated belongs to residents of the village of Aqrabah, located approximately 20 kilometers to the east. The community consists of three families, originally from Aqrabah, who have lived on this site for over 25 years. The total number of residents is currently 31, including 16 minors. The residents make a living from agriculture and shepherding and rely on water from a nearby spring. Their children attend school in al-Jiftlik. In 1972 the military declared the area where Khirbet ‘Ein Karzaliyah is situated a closed military zone (no. 904) on the grounds that it was required as a firing zone. According to the residents, no military exercises were held in the area until 2012. Since then, they report, the situation has changed and the army maintains a noticeable presence in the vicinity of the village.

Between January 2014 and January 2015, the Civil Administration demolished all the structures in the village three times, and on an additional occasion some of the structures were demolished. The last of these demolition operations took place on January 22, 2015, when the Civil Administration demolished all the structures in the village, including five tents used by the families for residential purposes, which were vandalized. Since then the residents have worked to rebuild the residential tents and the structure used for their livestock.

Residents of Khirbet ‘Ein Karzaliyah after the demolition. Photo: 'Aref Daraghmeh, B'Tselem
Residents of Khirbet ‘Ein Karzaliyah after the demolition. Photo: 'Aref Daraghmeh, B'Tselem

This morning, 4 March 2015, as noted, military and Civil Administration personnel again came to the village, along with a bulldozer. They demolished eight residential tents, six pens, and five tents where livestock was kept. They military and the Civil Administration also razed and blocked the dirt road leading to the village, which is approximately one kilometer long. Before leaving the village, the military and Civil Administration representatives threatened to return and demolish any structure that is rebuilt.

The frequent demolitions make reality of life in the village unbearably difficult, with residents living in constant fear of what will happen next. On February 22, 2015, B'Tselem field researcher ‘Aref Daraghmeh collected the testimony of Nahedah Bani Maniyah, a resident of the village. Bani Maniyah describes living conditions in the community over the past month, following the January 2015 demolition, and particularly during the winter storm that hit the area in the days preceding the collection of her testimony:

Since the Israeli army demolished our homes on January 22, 2015, we have been living in difficult conditions. The Red Cross gave us some small tents and we sewed up some of our own tents that we gathered from the ruins. The weather has been very harsh over the past month and we were afraid that the heavy rains might cause floods. We suffer particularly badly because we live in an area that is very inaccessible, especially in this kind of weather. During the worst two days of the storm our life was like a nightmare. Water flooded into our makeshift tents and soaked everything. Earth and mud seeped into the spring that provides our drinking water and we couldn’t use the water. We don’t have electricity and I only just managed to get a fire going to cook food for my sons. The flocks were also affected and we and our neighbors lost sheep and lambs. All the lambs are sick because of the cold. We don’t know what to do. We’re afraid that the cold weather may persist. We make a living from our livestock, but the animals no longer have shelter.

These demolitions are part of the Israeli authorities’ longstanding policy designed to expel thousands of Palestinians from dozens of communities throughout Area C from their homes on various pretenses. Israeli officials have repeatedly declared an intention to take over land in Area C in order to create “facts on the ground” that will facilitate annexation to Israel in a future peace agreement and, until then, de-facto annexation. In recent years, the Civil Administration has been planning a permanent site for Bedouin communities from the Ma’ale Adumim area and from the Jericho area in the Jordan Valley, to be called “Ramat Nu’eimah”. The plan is being drawn up with no input from the residents themselves, who oppose it.

As the occupying power in the West Bank, Israel must enable the residents to run their lives, including the possibility to build homes legally, use water sources, and maintain their way of life. The expulsion of residents of an occupied area from their homes in order to enable the occupying army to hold exercises is illegal. According to international humanitarian law, expulsion is permitted only in exceptional circumstances, when it is vital for an urgent military need or in order to protect the security of the local population. The expulsion of the residents from their homes in this instance clearly fails to meet any of these conditions. Moreover, no official body has offered the residents any appropriate solution that would enable them to maintain their way of life. If they are expelled, the members of the community will be left homeless and without any way of making a living.

The repeated demolitions of the homes in the community are nothing less than the cruel harassment of a particularly vulnerable population. B'Tselem urges the authorities to enable the residents of Khirbet ‘Ein Karzaliyah to remain in their place of residence without interference and to tend to their flocks as they have done for the past 25 years.