by ISM Hebron, February 15th
A month ago the villagers of Qawawis were informed by Occupation authorities that most of their houses would be demolished within a week. Qawawis, located in the South Hebron Hills, is home to several families totalling around 30 members who live in one concrete building and several other stone and canvas structures. Another stone structure housed international volunteers who used to live there as a protective presence for villagers against settler violence and harrassment.
Villagers employed a lawyer to challenge the IOF’s plans in Israeli courts but, as is often the case with house demolitions, Occupation authorities refused to abide by even their own court’s procedures.
Yesterday at 10am 22 Occupation vehicles invaded the small village and began demolition work. These vehicles comprised IOF, Border Police and DCO* jeeps, Civil Police and two bulldozers, one with a digger.
Most of the village’s permanent residents are elderly whilst most younger members live, work and study in nearby towns. Despite the resistance of these elderly villagers Occupation forces demolished the following:
Three stone and canvas structures belonging to the family of Hajj Mahmoud.
Three stone and canvas structures belonging to the sons of his brother Mohammed, Ibrahim, Abed and Yousef.
One stone and canvas structure belonging to Hajj Khalil used by international volunteers.
One stove house used for baking.
Relatives provided the villagers with tents to sleep in overnight. Despite the frequent settler violence and harrassment faced by villagers and this latest Occupation attempt to drive them from their ancestral lands, villagers vow to rebuild their homes and resist this ethnic cleansing. Groups such as Ta’ayush, Rabbis for Human Rights and ISM have promised to help rebuilding the homes and support the villagers of Qawawis and neighbouring villages in their struggle to retain their land.
Qawawis and other villages in the South Hebron Hills are surrounded by ‘illegal outposts’ – colonies which are illegal even according to Israeli law, but which receive infrastructure such as roads, water and electricity as well as IOF assistance, and which remain in place despite Israeli leaders’ pledges to remove them.
*District Coordination Office – the civilian administration wing of the Israeli military in the West Bank.