Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered the demolition of eight Palestinian villages in the West Bank and the expulsion of the residents on the grounds that the land is needed for military training.
The demolition order includes the villages of Majaz, Tabban, Sfai, Fakheit, Halaweh, Mirkez, Jinba, and Khroubeh, all located in the South Hebron Hills.
The resident of these villages are known as “cave dwellers” since they live in caves manually carved hundreds of years ago by shepherds and farmers that lived in the area. The villages, therefore, preserve an almost-extinct lifestyle that sheds light on part of the Palestinian culture.
The residents of the villages have above the caves built tin shanties for daily activities. They live primarily on herding and agriculture.
“This is a cave my great grandfather built more than 100 years ago,” Mohamed Abu Arram, one of the residents to be evacuated told Al Arabiya.
Abu Arram explained that he and his family use this cave as a refrigerator in the summer and for warmth in winter.
“It is the only thing we have. If we leave this cave, we’ll be refugees.”
Abu Arram expressed his hope that the Palestinian Authority would interfere to revoke the demolition order.
“I hope they will stand by us to prove our right to live on this land. We already live in deplorable conditions with no water, electricity, or roads. Now we will have no shelter.”
Salman Shehada, another resident, said that life in the villages is very tough, yet they do not want to leave.
“It is hard here but we got used to it and we are happy.”
According to the Israel Center for intelligence on violations of Human Rights in the Occupied Territories in the West bank and Gaza- Beitslim, the demolition order will render around 1,500 Palestinians homeless and is a dangerous step towards the annexation of several parts of southern Hebron.
“The main purpose of this order is that Israel seizes control of the southeastern borders of the West Bank,” said Beitslim spokesman Karim Jibran.
Israeli occupation forces issued in the late 1990s demolition orders for 12 villages, but they were later suspended by the Supreme Court after 200 families submitted pleas stating the harm that would befall them.
In 2005, negotiations with the residents of those villages failed and the Civil Administration ordered the demolition of water wells there in violation of the court order that stipulated not making any changes to the status quo.
Then Barack ordered the demolition of eight out of those 12 villages and said villagers will be allowed to cultivate the land during official holiday or when it is not used for military training.
The Israeli Supreme Court is on Sunday scheduled to look into a plea filed by the villagers to stop the demolition.