13 October 2009
On Tuesday, 13 October 2009, Israeli soldiers and police prevented the residents of Umm al-Kheir, located in the South Hebron Hills, from finishing the construction of a new chicken house. The families are not allowed by the army to build houses and are therefore living in tents that are located just outside the gate to the illegal settlement of Carmel.
During the day one of the families started to build a small house, approximately 2,5 x 3m, using stones and cement, to house their chickens. When international and Israeli activists arrived at the scene, at around 5pm, one military jeep and one settlement security car was stationed in the middle of the Bedouin community, on the road outside the settlement gate. During the two following hours more and more soldiers and police arrived and different police men repeatedly inspected the chicken house and filmed both the house and the locals and activists that were observing the situation. At 6pm the local residents and one Israeli activist continued with the construction, while being filmed and closely watched by the police, army and settler security. At around 7pm the army brought documents showing that they had declared the whole community a ‘closed military area’, forbidding all internationals there. In the document they also included one Palestinian working for B’Tselem.
The following day the area was opened again, and the ground to the chicken house was still standing.
The residents of Umm al-Kheir, approximately 80 people in six extended families, are originally from Tel Arad inside Israel, but were forced to leave in 1948 and instead settled down east of the town of Yatta in the West Bank. In 1981 the Carmel illegal settlement was established on top of the same hill and since then the residents of Umm al-Kheir have suffered from numerous attacks and harassments from the settlers. During the last five years, the settlement has expanded significantly, steeling further land from Umm al-Kheir.