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Aqraba: 76% Land Loss

Aqraba is one of the many affected villages in the West Bank by the Israeli Occupation. The community lost about 76% of its initial land, since the war of 1967. The confiscated land was used to build four settlements and so-called “Natural Areas “ and “Military Areas”, declaring these territories area C, where the Israeli government has total administrative and security control.

The town has constant clashes with the surrounding settlements, and these are more violent in the olive harvest season. Farmers are attacked when working on their lands and even when passing certain roads near their properties. Three years ago, the settlers kidnapped a man and killed another one. A few months ago, MPTers were told that two young men from Awarta village were killed on a road which borders the village land with Jitit settlement.

Settler-only road. Land to north is confiscated settler land,
to the south village land.
In the distance, a settler water tank.

Settler contained-animal lots.

MPT visited the village and spoke with the Project Coordinator of the Union Agricultural Work Communities, agricultural Palestinian NGO. As he explained the goals and the achievements of this agricultural union, MPT realized this is not only a community development organization, but a very well organized form of resisting the occupation. The organization works mainly on the land declared area C, where already 18 buildings including a mosque received a demolition order. The organization tries to empower farmers with the knowledge, skills and competences necessary for them to cultivate their lands, which otherwise will be taken away by the Israeli settlements, if it is not cultivated and rehabilitated. The coordinator told MPT when they started their work in area C, an Israeli surveillance plane flew low over the area, took pictures about what are the Palestinians were doing and how. They are expecting new “visits” like this in the future, besides the regular “ inspections” already practiced by the Israeli Occupied Forces.

Home/not a home - no real roof, in C Area. Under order of demolish.
Simple homes built to replace primitive housing.
Mosque with tower. All under demolition orders.
School in B Area for children in C Area. Better construction is possible.

The organization is funded mainly by external donors, like Spain, the Netherlands, Italy and it is one of the most successful agricultural organizations. They have offices in Jenin, Nablus, Hebron and Ramallah and their main activities include: land rehabilitation projects by taking out the rocks from the fields, building terraces, setting up water tanks and planting olive, fig and almond trees. They offer training courses for farmers in pesticides use, green houses, waste management, soil preparation, minerals and organic compounds, and the use of fertilizers. They help farmers establish microfinance
"Reconstruction" of land. Leveled, rocks removed
and used to build terrace wall. Terraces for planting trees.

Terrace walls are built by hand, giving work to villagers and reclaiming the land.

Speaking about their achievements, the coordinator proudly explained that the work that they are doing has many benefits for the farmers, unfortunately no study has been made yet. Last year, 13 very poor farmers, whose land was taken, were provided green houses; 500 farmers in ten villages were trained and MPT could see how the unused land is being transformed in a fertile agricultural area.

This organization does not accept US AID. The European funders are very supportive of the approach and work of their organization, while the US has a different approach. Local volunteers who work with this organization first contacted MPT about the situation in Aqraba.

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