January 25, 2002

Massive Land Confiscation in Hebron's Baqa'a valley.

By Nathan Bender and Dianne Roe

During the past ten days CPT has documented massive land confiscation by the Israeli military accompanied by settlement and road construction in the Baqa'a valley east of Hebron, on both sides of bypass road # 60. The families facing the loss of their land have a long relationship with CPT and with Israeli and North American partners participating in the Campaign for Secure Dwellings.  Most of the residents of the valley are subsistence farmers for whom loss of land means loss of all hope.

On January 21, several families in that area blocked the bulldozer that was tearing up their land a few meters away from their houses on top of one of the hills east of road #60 in the village of Al Odisah.  CPTers Dianne Roe, Claire Evans, Nathan Bender and two internationals went to the site in response to a call by a Palestinian friend who had heard shooting in the area.  Upon arriving at the scene they saw approximately forty unarmed residents gathered on their land in front of the bulldozer, while two soldiers and one armed settler guarded the bulldozer from behind.  Israeli soldiers in jeeps were positioned along the bulldozer tracks nearby.

  The team learned that earlier in the afternoon Israeli settlers from the nearby settlement of Kiryat Arba had confronted the villagers.  Shots had been fired to frighten the Palestinians.  A young Palestinian man told Bender that a fifteen-year-old Palestinian girl had gone to the hospital after a physical altercation with one of the settlers.  Later in the afternoon, an Israeli Armed Personnel Carrier entered the area and positioned itself next to the house above the bulldozer.

CPTers Greg Rollins and Brenda and Rich Meyer, revisited the area on January 24 and talked with several of the families.  Abu Mahmoud (not his real name) looked across road #60 at his brother's land on Sultan Mountain.  On the previous day a new settler mobile home had been placed on the top of the mountain.  CPTers watched a crane moving water tanks to the mountaintop.  Bulldozer tracks totally encircled Abu Mahmoud's home.  He said that the area's military commander told him the week before that his house is on Israeli state land and that he would have to leave.

Two years ago, armed settlers from Kiryat Arba surrounded Abu Mahmoud's home and demanded that it be demolished.  CPT and Israeli activists arrived at the site, and were able to summon international pressure on the Israeli military to protect Abu Mahmoud's land from the settlers.  The Israeli military then told Abu Mahmoud that they would protect his house only if he no longer talked with journalists, CPT, Israelis, or internationals.  Now two years later, under the Sharon government, the military is taking the entire area.