JORDAN VALLEY, Palestine :-
Residents live without shelter in snowstorm, adamant not to give up land as Israeli forces destroy village several times.
This is the ninth straight night that Harb Abu-Elkbash, a 48-year-old Palestinian Bedouin, will spend under the open sky in freezing temperatures.
The Israeli army stormed his village of Homsa al-Baqia, located east of the city of Tubas in the Jordan Valley, 38 miles (61 kilometers) north of Jerusalem, and uprooted his tent and sheepfold.
As a snowstorm descended on Palestine last Wednesday, Israeli soldiers prevented the village’s residents from taking refuge in tents.
Since the first time on Nov. 3 last year, Israeli bulldozers have repeatedly razed this village.
The remnants of tents, sheds, portable toilets, and solar panels belonging to the 11 families who call Homsa home can be seen strewn across the farmland.
As villagers like Harb try to rebuild the shelters for themselves and their livestock, the army returns to demolish them again, forcing the hapless community to spend nights roofless.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Harb said they had finally managed to repair their belongings when Israeli soldiers demolished them two months ago.
“They came again twice in the past few days and confiscated all our farming tools, portable toilets, and the metal structures for our rooms and tents,” he said.
This past Tuesday, the Israeli army stormed the village as a delegation of European diplomats was visiting the area – all supplies brought for the people were confiscated.
“We are 65 people living without shelter, water, and electricity,” Harb said, narrating how the Israelis made it a point to destroy the solar panels the Bedouin community was using for power.
The army supports and protects more than 10 Jewish settlements set up around Homsa, which have all basic facilities and are allowed to carry out agricultural activity.
“They did not allow me to fetch water from the well that is 300 meters away from my tent. I need to travel two hours every night to bring water for my family. If I go during the day, the army will seize my van,” he said.
Motaz Bsharat, director of the Jordan Valley’s affairs in Tubas, described the situation as catastrophic.
“It is a perfect crime. Among these 65 Bedouins, there are 42 children. They are all living out in the open. The army does not allow us to access to the village; we cannot help or rescue them, they confiscate everything,” he said.
Displaced from the Negev desert in 1948, Harb and the other families have been living in the village since before 1967.
“My family came here before 1967, and now the Israelis claim that our lands are military zones and want to expel us,” he said.
“They do not care about anything; our lives, our children mean nothing to them.”
Harb, his brothers, and their families are now spending the biting cold winter nights out in the open.
“Our children live in dire conditions. My nephew was just three days old when the army demolished our tents the first time. They took our tents when it was raining,” he told Anadolu Agency.
Israel is aiming to annex more than 70,000 dunums (nearly 17,300 acres) of land in the area.
According to the locals, many Palestinian children have been attacked by settlers in the past few months, some in their villages and others while going to school.
“The occupation [Israel] is trying to take the area on the east of the Ayalon Highway to isolate the West Bank and annex fertile lands of Jordan Valley, which is the food basket of the West Bank,” said Qasem Awwad, an official of the Colonization and Wall Resistance Commission.
More than 200 establishments have been demolished four times, causing financial losses of more than $3 million, according to the commission.
“Homsa has been completely destroyed nine times, thrice within the first week of February,” he said.