Israeli army carries out ethnic cleansing near Hebron for settlement expansion
Israeli army bulldozers, backed by soldiers, on Wednesday swooped on four Palestinian hamlets in southern Hebron hills, demolishing 11 homes and structures and rendering dozens of men, women and children homeless.
The wanton demolitions are ostensibly aimed at expanding adjacent Jewish colonies inhabited by fundamentalist settlers advocating ethnic cleansing of all non-Jews in Palestine.
The demolitions took place at the agricultural villages of Qwawis, Emnezil, Al-Dirat and Umm Lasafa. Nine of the demolished structures were residential homes and two were livestock enclosures.
According cartographer and settlement expert Abdul Hadi Hantash, the purpose of the demolitions is to “ethnically cleanse the area of Arabs” so that recent Jewish immigrants from France and Russia could live in there on stolen Arab land.
Several Jewish colonies were established in the area a few years ago and settlers reportedly have been continually terrorizing and harassing local Palestinians and vandalizing their property.
According to the locals, settler terror and vandalism are carried out with the full knowledge of the army.
“They (the settlers) come to our community, carrying automatic rifles. They vandalize our property, they routinely poison our water sources, including cisterns, they often steal our sheep and poison our pastures. Recently they stole our tractor in broad daylight,” said Yasser al A’dra, whose home was demolished Wednesday.
“And if we try to resist or protect our property, they train their guns at our chest.”
Asked why the victims don’t appeal to Israeli courts to stop settler aggression, al A’dra said “it is impossible for non-Jews to receive justice from Jewish courts.”
“When we go to the police, they ask us to give them precise information about the names of the aggressors and their identity numbers. We simply can’t obtain these data, so the police tell us to go home.”
At the village of Emnezil, a huge army bulldozer destroyed the home of Muhammed Khalil abu Qbeita, leaving his entire family of 10 homeless.
Abu Qbeita said the army was preventing him from pitching a tent to shelter his family.
“They are treating us like non-human beings. If we were animals, they would probably treat us differently,” he said, with bitterness clear in the tone of his voice.
“Tell the peoples of the world how these criminals, how these beasts, are treating us. They complain about what Hitler did to them. Maybe Hitler was right after all.”
At Qwawis, a hamlet of nearly 300 inhabitants, the same bulldozer demolished three homes belonging to the Abu Aram family.
According to Ismael Abu Aram, whose two-story home was also destroyed, there is a complete coordination between the Israeli army and Jewish settlers in the area for the purpose of “making our life unbearable.”
“They have destroyed our caves, poisoned our pasture, and denied us access to our own land. My God, where else this criminality, this oppression, happen. They simply want us to leave so that they could take over our land.”
At the nearby village of al-Dirat, the Israeli army is preventing the estimated population of 350 people from building homes for young couples.
The villagers have been living where they are since the Ottoman era, nearly a hundred years ago.
“And now these immigrants from Europe and Australia and America are telling us that we don’t belong here,” said Muhamemd al-Adra, the head of the Al Dirat local council, pointing his finger toward the nearby Jewish colony of Mitsadot Yehuda.
He pointed out that in the past few years, the Israeli army destroyed as many as 45 homes in and around the village.
An Israeli army spokesman said the structures were demolished because they had been built without a building license.
Israel has destroyed thousands of Arab homes in the West Bank under this pretext.
However, Palestinians and human rights organizations operating in occupied Palestine dismiss the “license story” as only an excuse.
“The goal is ethnic cleansing, namely to depopulate as much as possible of the West Bank in order to build settlements for Jews. The license story is only a pretext, a sort of excuse to put a legal façade to the ugly policy of ethnic cleansing,” said Mahmoud Nammoura, a human rights activist and expert in international humanitarian law.
“Israel and legality are an oxymoron,” says Nammoura whose own home was destroyed by the Israeli army a few years ago.
“It is pointless and illogical to hope for even a semblance of justice under a foreign military occupation.”