The convoy of bulldozers arrived at Khirbet Humsah with clear orders: demolish as much as possible.
It was 3 November 2020, the eve of the US elections. As the world looked to the west, Israel demolished 18 tents and shacks that were home to 11 families, nine tents that served as kitchens, three storage sheds, 10 portable toilets, solar panels, 23 water containers, 29 tents and shacks that served as livestock enclosures, 10 livestock pens, and feeding and watering troughs. More than 30 tons of fodder and water for the animals were thrown onto the cold ground. To round off the rampage, the forces confiscated vehicles and two tractors belonging to three residents.
Many Palestinian shepherding communities in the West Bank live on land that Israel seeks to take over. As the state cannot simply load the residents onto trucks and drive them away – an act the international community would frown upon – it has decided to make their lives so unbearable that they will leave, supposedly of their own accord. That is why Israel bans them from building anything at all – homes, livestock pens, roads. It is also why they are barred from hooking up to water and electricity grids, and why the authorities are quick to demolish whatever they eventually, for lack of choice, build without permits.
International organizations occasionally provide humanitarian aid. The West Bank Protection Consortium, for example, which consists of 10 EU member states, supplies the communities with essential equipment to alleviate the hardships created by Israel. The authorities are quick to demolish these structures, too.
That Tuesday, after the last bulldozer disappeared beyond the horizon, 74 people – 41 of them minors – were left homeless. Out in the open without shelter, toilets, electricity or hope. They stood there, in the cold rain of early November, on the bare sandy hills, and did not know what to do next. After all, their livelihoods depend on this place, and they have nowhere else to go.
Photos by Sarit Michaeli, B’Tselem
Eyes Wide Open Photo Blog by B’Tselem is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You are free to use the photos in the blog. However, any public use of photos must include copyright credit to the photographer and B’Tselem.
Israel’s regime of apartheid and occupation is inextricably bound up in human rights violations. B’Tselem strives to end this regime, as that is the only way forward to a future in which human rights, democracy, liberty and equality are ensured to all people, both Palestinian and Israeli, living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.