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Collective punishment continues in Khirbet Tana

International Solidarity Movement

28 January 2010

Israeli occupation forces confiscated a fifth tractor from the endangered village of Khirbet Tana in the northern West Bank yesterday, January 27. The confiscation was justified by Israeli military personnel as punishment for farmers attempted to rebuild shelters on land that was razed by the occupation forces two weeks prior.

Fursa Farris Hanani, lifelong farmer and resident of Khirbet Tana, was confronted by Israeli soldiers yesterday morning as he attempted to reassemble the small stone structure that constitutes a shelter for him and his family, after its demolition by Israeli bulldozers two weeks ago. The military commander present accused Hanani of “making a challenge” for the army in his actions, by re-building on the same site as the former home. The commander informed Hanani that he was not to re-build in this area, but to move his family and their animals to another, unspecified location. The so-called challenge resulted in a hefty punishment meted out by the Israeli occupation forces – a fine of 3000 shekels and the confiscation of Hanani’s tractor, the vital tool to his and his family’s means of cultivating the land from which they survive. The commander issued a final order as the army left: that residents of Khirbet Tana generally, and the Hanani family specifically, were now only authorized to be on site during the period of Friday and Saturday. No papers were produced to verify this demand.

The bizarre punishment of confiscation of an agricultural machine and the accompanying fine has been dealt to 5 residents of Khirbet Tana since Israeli occupation forces demolished the village for the third time two weeks ago. 3 of the tractors were taken to a settlement in the Qalqilya region where they are still being held; the other 2 are in the compound of the Israeli District Co-ordination Office in the Ramallah region. Hanani states that even when he is permitted to come and collect the tractor, he will be forced to spend a further 600 shekels on the transportation of the machine from the compound outside Ramallah to Khirbet Tana in the north-west of the West Bank. “I don’t understand,” says Hanina. “I’m just trying to live here, with my family, my sheep. How is this dangerous for Irael?”

Khirbet Tana’s population, originally consisting of some 60 families, has now shrunk to only 35, the others fleeing to the neighbouring village of Beit Furik, on whose lands Khirbet Tana resides, since the demolition. Israeli efforts to ethnically cleanse the area of its Palestinian population date back to the occupation of the West Bank in 1967, the situation worsening considerably since the Oslo Accords zoning scheme of 1994 deemed the entire region Area C, under full Israeli control. The village was demolished for the first time in 2005, when Israeli bulldozers razed 14 homes, 18 animal sheds and 6 animal stores to the ground, leaving only the ancient mosque standing. Using bureaucracy as a weapon, Israeli authorities then banned residents from building permanent structures on the site of their former homes by refusing to issue the necessary permits. Ramshackle tents and prefabricated structures now dot the hillsides of Khirbet Tana, as residents are forced to adopt almost a bedouin lifestyle, fearing instant demolition at the first attempt to lay concrete or stone.

Israeli bulldozers visited Khirbet Tana a second time in May 2008, once again leaving only rubble in their wake. An objection then filed by residents to the Israeli High Court of Justice resulted in the final, non-objectionable decision to demolish all structures in Khirbet Tana and evict its entire population from their lands. This was carried out on 10 January 2010, when all 25 structures remaining in the village were once again flattened by the bulldozers of the occupation forces. Neighbouring agricultural communities such as Twiyel, east of Aqraba village, have suffered similar attacks in recent months.

Khirbet Tana’s remaining population ecks out a precarious existence in the isolated hills between Beit Furik and the Jordan Valley. Like Fursa Hanina, those who stay are determined to hold rightful claim to their land in the face of Israel’s bureaucratic and military machine, and its efforts to ethnically cleanse Palestine’s rural population.