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The Caves of Last Resort

The Stories of Quawawis and Massafer Yatta

On Tuesday, June 8, the Israeli civil administration told the villagers of Quawawis to remove the roofless structures built in front of the caves where they are living. If they don’t tear the structures down themselves, the civil administration will bulldoze them into the ground. Last week, Israeli authorities bulldozed structures in the Massafer Yatta area, a place similar to Qawawis.

It is quite possible that a campaign to remove these people from their land has been put into place so that outposts, which are considered illegal by Israeli Authorities, are flourishing in this area, in direct defiance of the 2001 Road Map.

The story below illustrates the destruction wrought by Israeli Occupation Forces as they continue to force families out of their homes, after which their homes are demolished:

Illegal demolition of 4 Houses in Massafer Yatta area, the poorest zone in the West Bank South of Hebron

Written by Operation Dove
22 May 2005

At 9.30am on the 22nd of May in the small village of Halt-El Thabit, three IOF jeeps and two bulldozers destroyed the only remaining house in the village. No demolition order had been delivered to the family, who were ordered to leave in five minutes. The 11-member family tried to take as many of their belongings as they could, then stood helplessly as they witnessed the Israeli military demolish their house.

It had been built in 1998 next to the cave where they had previously lived. Now, the occupation forces have given them no choice but to return to the cave.

The military took about 15 minutes to tear down the house, then left, and proceeded to the nearby village of Sarourah, where they destroyed three more Palestinian homes.

Several illegal Israeli settlements have also sprung up in the area, populated by extremist settlers who have frequently attacked the local Palestinians. When international volunteers have accompanied shepherds to their pastures or Palestinian children from the small village of Tuba to their school in Al Tuwani, these same extremist settlers have often attacked and wounded them as well.

All access roads to the Massafer Yatta area have been closed since the beginning of the current Intifada. In order to enter or leave the area, Palestinian residents must sneak onto the settler-only roads, risking reprisals from the military.

The Israeli Ministry of Defense has already drawn up a plan, called Firezone 918, to forcibly displace about 1300 Palestinians and create a military zone for maneuvers. These plans are already being carried out despite the presence of the villages, because Israel insists that the area was given to them in the Oslo agreements.

According to OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs),the Massafer Yatta area is the poorest in the West Bank. People have no choice but to live in caves, because they can’t get authorization to build from the Israeli administration, which has total control of the area. Living in these caves has become the choice of last resort for many of the families who refuse to leave their land.

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