26 April 2009
Palestinians from the South Hebron Hills village of Um al Kheir today changed the route of a road being constructed by settlers from the illegal settlement of Karmel. The villagers, acting with internationals, nonviolently blocked the road-building equipment as it prepared the roadbed on land which belongs to Palestinians living in the village of Um al Kheir.
Palestinians and internationals gathered to confront settlers from Karmel, Israeli soldiers, and Israeli border police as work began at 7:00 AM. Israeli soldiers allowed the road work to continue despite a pending legal complaint filed by the village in Israeli court. One older Palestinian man who was sitting in front of earth-moving equipment was accidentally struck by stones which were dislodged by the work.
Survey markers placed the previous week in the village indicated that construction of the road would include the demolition of a Palestinian home and several agricultural structures. As marked now, the road will include the annexation of a large area of Palestinian land by the settlement, but will not include demolition of the home. A legal decision on construction of the road is expected within ten days.
Representatives from the United Nations Refugee Works Administration (UNRWA) were also present during the work because the villagers have refugee status. Residents of the Bedouin village of Um al Kheir bought the land the village currently occupies, including the land being used for construction of the settler road, fifty years ago. They were forced to move the village from its original location near Arrad in 1948, after the creation of the state of Israel.
Recent expansion of the Karmel settlement has included the construction of twelve double houses around the perimeter of the settlement. These are surrounded by a fence and a military road, which encroaches onto Palestinian land. The new road as proposed will extend the settlement farther into Um al Kheir, and will result in the annexation of a substantial area of land outside the existing settlement houses. Numerous other Palestinian villages in the South Hebron Hills have been impacted by the expansion of settlements and outposts in recent months.
The residents of Um al Kheir, along with villagers from nearby At-Tuwani and other villages in the area, remain committed to nonviolence as they struggle to oppose the illegal expansion of Israeli settlements and outposts. Villagers have filed legal complaints, and staged nonviolent grazing actions in the South Hebron Hills throughout the spring grazing season.