30 October 2014
SOUTH HEBRON HILLS: Six homes, community
oven destroyed in Um Al Kheir
On the morning of 27 October 2014, the Israeli military came
with bulldozers to the Palestinian village of Um Al-Kheir and demolished six
houses and a traditional bread oven (tabun). The demolitions left thirty-one people homeless, including
twelve children. According to the
villagers, the tabun had no demolition order, but the settlers from nearby
Karmel settlement were trying to sue the community over its use, saying that
the smoke from the fire that baked the bread generated health problems for the
During the demolition, Israeli police took two Israeli peace
activists to the Kiryat Arba police station and arrested an international
volunteer. They released him later
that night on the condition that he could not be in the West Bank for a period
of two weeks.
Um Al-Kheir is a small Palestinian village in the South
Hebron Hills, whose inhabitants are Bedouin refugees from Tel Arad in Negev,
inside the internationally recognized boundaries of Israel. The residents bought the land for the
village in the 1950s. In the
1980s, settlers established Karmel right next to the village and continue to
confiscate land from Palestinians for its expansion. The Israeli occupation authorities deny access to even the
most basic infrastructure for the residents of Um Al-Kheir, who may not connect
to running water or electricity, and must rely on solar panels and generators.
As it happens all over Area C (61% of the West Bank under
full Israeli military control), any construction without approval from the
Israeli military authorities, i.e., the Civil Administration, gets a demolition
order. The Civil Administration approves
only a small fraction, about 5%, of the requests for building permits and only
in heavily built areas that represent 1% of Area C. It effectively forbids Palestinians to build in two-thirds of
this same area (40% of the whole West Bank). Since the beginning of the occupation in 1967, Israel has
demolished thousands of Palestinian homes in the Occupied Territories because
their owners could not get building permits, including those who built the six
houses demolished on 27 October.
The administrative process of house demolition, along with
land confiscation, has been publicly recognized as a way to safeguard space for
settlements, which are illegal under international law. According to this same set of rules, and
according to international law, an occupying force should also allow for the
development and well being of the occupied population, which the policy of
house demolitions clearly violates.
On the day following the demolitions, 28 October,
Palestinian residents of Um al-Kheir gathered with members of the South Hebron
Hills Popular Committee and international solidarity volunteers for a joint
action, during which they rebuilt the tabun. This traditional oven is the only sustainable source of daily
bread for forty people in the village. CPTers were actively involved in helping to rebuild this
illegally demolished structure.
The tabun was demolished once again on 29 October and
rebuilt with scrap metal parts soon after.
A video about the demolition is available here.