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Israeli bulldozers: demolishing homes, ruining livelihoods

26 November 2010 | Stella, International Solidarity Movement

Palestinian mother sitting with her kids on the rubble of her home

How can a kid understand Israeli demolitions if neither adults can?

A tent with view on the ruins of a 200 metres house

In the last few days, with a wave of demolitions, Israeli bulldozers have spread destruction and despair in the villages across the West Bank: in Qarawat Bani Hassan near Salfeet, in al-Jiftlik in the Jordan Valley, in Hizma, near Jerusalem, in Khirbet Yarza, east of Tubas, and in the South Hebron Hills.

Yesterday I went to the village of al-Rifayaia, east of Yatta in South Hebron, where at 8:15 AM Israeli forces had demolished a house that had been home to two families of twenty people (16 of them minors).

I arrived there around 1 PM, to at least show the ISM’s support and to document what had happened.

Many people were gathering around the rubble to support the two families that had lost their houses. The many kids around had disoriented expressions while they were playing on the ruins of what used to be a nice 200 square meter house.

The women, even if they still had their eyes wet and red, did not forget hospitality and I was immediately offered a cup of sweet tea. Everybody encouraged me to take many pictures as if they wanted to show to the world all the details of their unjust distress.

A young man explained that his two brothers, with their families, were living in the house that was demolished. One of them was sitting not too far from us with a somber, worried expression. He won’t be able to rebuild a new house for his family. In fact, he has no permit to go and work in Israel and his economic situation is very bad.

The Israeli bulldozers didn’t even let them remove their belongings before demolishing the house.

The Red Cross visited them just before me and brought a couple of big tents, some plastic chairs, two camp stoves and a few boxes of humanitarian aid. Not enough to help them now that the cold winter is coming. I was asked if I could help them in any way, but unfortunately I could only assure them that the news about what had happened to them would be spread so that more people in the world would know how the Palestinian people are forced to live.

After a while Hamed Qawasmeh arrived. He works for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). He explained to me that there are not many organizations that help to rebuild houses that Israel demolishes, and that the UN can only provide some services to mitigate the harsh situation of the two homeless families.

While I talk with the UN representative, not too far from the ruins of the house the men of the family put up the two tents that the Red Cross had donated. At least these two homeless families, during the next cold winter months, will be surrounded by the warm support of their relatives and their community.