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Settlers harass and assault the Jundiyeh family and block their access road, a-Tuba village, the Southern Hebron Hills

Omar Jundiyeh, father of ten

Omar Jundiyeh

I live with my wife and our ten children in a cave in a-Tuba, which is situated about one kilometer east of the Ma'on settlement. My eldest child in seventeen years old. I have a parcel of land, some of which lies on land of a-Tuba and another part is situated west of al-Majaz. I grow wheat and barley on the parcel, and I also gain a living from raising sheep. I have eighty head of sheep. My brother Ibrahim, 55, lives with me and we work the land together.

I was born in a cave in the area of a-Tawaneh. When I was fifteen years old, my family moved to new caves that my father prepared in a-Tuba. We have not left the caves since then. I married in a-Tuba and all my children were born in the cave in which we live. In 1982, they [Israelis] began to build the Ma'on settlement and a few other settlements in the area. The settlements were built on land belonging to residents of Yatta. The settlers are continuously expanding the settlements.

In the early 1990s, the settlers took control of large areas of a-Sarura, al-Kharuba, Umm Zeituneh, and Magheir al-'‘Abid. They prevented Palestinian farmers from getting to their land and working it, and from grazing their flocks. They attacked the farmers. The army knew about this but did nothing. In 1997, the army destroyed a-Tuba. They sealed the caves, the pens, and the fodder warehouses. They wanted to expel us from the village, but we didn't leave. We received a warning from the army the day before the destruction took place. The reason they gave was that the area was a closed military area. In November 1999, the army came with trucks, and the soldiers piled our things and produce onto the trucks and dumped them on the western side of Route 60.

Children in the caves of south mounth Hebron. Photo: Mush Abu Hashhash, B'Tselem, 13 December 2004. Children in the caves of south mounth Hebron. Photo: Mush Abu Hashhash, B'Tselem, 13 December 2004.

We went to live in a-Tawaneh. Four months later, the Supreme Court decided that we can return to live in A-Tuba. We returned to the caves.

After we returned, the settler abuse increased. They blocked the main road connecting the village with a-Tawaneh and Yatta. Along this road, it only took an hour to get to Yatta. They abused anybody who used the road. Sometimes they beat people, like the time my wife, sister-in-law, and two of my sons, Muhammad and Ahmad, were on their way home from Yatta. Two armed settlers blocked their way, beat them, and tried to steal the donkey. Sometimes, settlers summoned the police. The police officers arrested or stopped the residents on the grounds that the road was a closed military area.

Because of the attacks and abuse, we started to use an alternate road. It was hilly and very long, passing through a-Tawaneh, al-Mufaqara, al-'‘Arqub, Magheir al-'‘Abid, and a-Tuba. It takes about two hours by tractor. Having to use the alternate route is very hard on us, and also greatly increases our expenses in transporting fodder and water. Before the main road was blocked, we paid sixty shekels to transport fodder from Yatta to the village. Now it costs more than 200 shekels. The same is true about water.

In the spring of 2003, my brother Ibrahim and I returned at night to the village. We were riding on donkeys along the bypass road and we had a tin of oil that we had bought. Near Khirbet al-Menaqreh, two settlers on traktornim blocked our way. They were armed. One of them threw stones at us and the other fired in our direction. We left the donkeys and ran away. The settlers stole the oil on the donkey. My brother was injured by stones that struck him in the back.

The blocking of the main road particularly harms us when we need to get to the hospital. In January 2004, my wife was about to give birth. In the evening, I summoned a tractor from Yatta to come and take us to the hospital. There were no tractors in the village. When the tractor did not arrive, I decided to take my wife by donkey. We had no choice, but to walk via the bypass road until we got to a-Tawaneh. It took us about two hours. From there, we went by car to Yatta Hospital , where she gave birth as soon as she arrived.

A serious incident took place on the night of 16 May 2004. Settlers torched the crops in the fields around the village. They burned nine wagons full of barley and wheat. The grains were intended to feed our flock for a whole year. The police estimated the loss at 20,000 shekels. My nephews and neighbors saw settlers leave the fields and walk to the settlement after the fire broke out. We not only lost our produce, but also the effort of a year an a half's work by me, my wife, and the children. This was the first time that I bought fodder and wheat to feed my sheep and goats and for my family. I filed a complaint with the police. Police officers came a few times, took pictures of the area and questioned us, but we have not heard about the results of the investigation.

In July, Mahmud and my nephew were in the area of the village grazing the flock. Settlers from Ma'on came on foot and attacked them. The children ran away and tried to get the sheep to scatter. The settlers chased after the sheep and stabbed five of them with a knife. One of them died on the spot and the other four required special care for a long period of time. We filed a complaint for assault. The police came and investigated the incident. I have documents relating to these complaints.

Ibrahim and I filed lots of complaints, but the settlers don't stop assaulting us. I no longer believe that filing complaints can help, and I have not filed complaints about lots of attacks.

Omar Muhammad Ahmad Jundiyeh, 37, is a father of ten children, a farmer, and a resident of a-Tuba in South Mount Hebron . His testimony was taken in his cave in a-Tuba village by Musa Abu Hashhash on 21 October 2004.