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A busy day in and around Hebron

Any day for an activist in the West Bank can include a surprise or two. Our day in the Hebron area was full of unscheduled action. We had just spent the night with the Christian Peacemaker Team deep in the old city. We arose early to go on check point watch with CPT. This is a daily pre-breakfast task for CPT. Critical check points are monitored to log the number of school children passing and to observe the treatment of others. One MPTer decided to take pictures and chose to continue even after a soldier said “No”. The police arrived later. Police have more authority over internationals. After manipulating the memory card out of the camera and passing it off (a move the soldier unfortunately observed), the camera was handed to the policeman. It could have gotten messy at that point but up rolled a car with TIPH representatives. TIPH, Temporary International Presence in Hebron, is a creation of the Oslo Accord. They observe and file reports – no more, no less. But the Israelis want good TIPH reports. It is our guess that their arrival prompted the police commander to get out of the vehicle and take charge. The camera was immediately returned and MPTers moved out of the way. The soldier and policeman were upset at being overruled. MPTers were relieved.

This is the check point we observed. The soldier is asking us not to take pictures. School children have to pass through the little white building for metal detection and such. These four men are being checked as they complain that they were just checked at another check point to get into this area (True according CPT staff.)

Then a call came alerting us to a home demolition south of Hebron, in Baqa Valley. A quick trip to the CPT house to repack, a taxi and soon we were at another scene. Somewhere in there breakfast got forgotten.

By the time we arrived in Baqa'a the Israeli army had already destroyed a well and a house built next to it, both of which belonging to a local Palestinian family. Baqa Valley located in a mountainous area south of Hebron. It's separated from the notorious Jewish settlement of Qiryat Arba only by a road. The village suffers serious water shortages and locals have been accused of "stealing" water from the settlement in order to meet their basic water needs. Naturally it's arguable if one can steal their own water but that's the pretext under which the Israeli army destroys wells and irrigation pipes belonging to Palestinians in Area C. We were told that one more well in the village was to be destroyed on the following day for the same reasons. This particular family had their well and house destroyed for the first time in 2009. The reason was actually the usual one: lack of permit to built. Their water did come from pipes from a neighboring village. After 2009 the owner rebuilt both his well and home and acquired all the necessary documents proving that the land is his. It was to no avail though, the bulldozers returned.

When MPTers arrived the bulldozers were leveling the ground. The Israeli army was working along with Qiryat Arba settlers to place stones on the property to minimize the chance of rebuilding. We were told by children from the family whose home was demolished that the bulldozer has been at work since 6 am. That's when the family had been awoken from their sleep and given 5 minutes to leave.

The only hint for the existence of the house and the well at this site hours later was the water flowing now all over the place. An MPTer asked a boy from the family why he wouldn't change his pants that were wet. He replied he was beaten by an Israeli soldier earlier during the day and now he had no house to take a spare pair of pants from. His parents were at his uncle's house at the time and were sparing themselves the sight of the bulldozers at work.

We had planned to visit the village of At Tuwani on this day so after watching the home demolition clean up, taking pictures, and talking with the family and other internationals, we decided to go to At Tuwani from this new location. MPT has a history of visiting At Tuwani. You can learn more about this village by reading our old blogs.

This report talks about the Bedouins in Tuba, a village very near to At Tuwani. http://mptinpalestine.blogspot.com/2008/05/bedouin-land-fragile-desert-ecology-and.html And in 2009 MPTers visited again. http://mptinpalestine.blogspot.com/2009/11/cactus-watering-protest-at-at-tuwani.html

Children from nearby villages are still accompanied by internationals and the military as they walk between the Israeli settlement and Israeli outpost on their way to and from school. This is necessary because the settlers have a history of attacking kids on their way to school. We were reminded of President Obama’s recent speech where he commented that Israeli parents should not have to worry about their children when they send them to school. He made no mention of Palestinian kids on their way to school.

The settlement of Ma'On is on the hill. New construction is visible to the left. We are not able to see the Israeli outpost hidden in the trees to the right. International volunteers are not allowed to escort the children, this is considered as a "provocation" by the settlers and the Israeli army. So they only observe from afar trying to make sure the children are escorted safely from various observation points on the hills around the area. The army comes twice daily to provide escort as the children walk to and from school, often late and without completing the whole route. That day they came after the international volunteers had contacted the local DCO, only half an hour late. The children actually rejoiced at the sight of the approaching jeep, they could finally goo home now. Sometimes the soldiers actually provide protection when trouble starts .... sometimes.
Another informal taxi ride and a group cab got us back to Hebron for the another evening with CPT

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