Khirbet Tana - A village threatened with expulsion
December 10, 2009, on the International Human Rights Day and the day Obama received the Nobel’s peace prize, the Israeli army paid a visit to the remote village of Khirbet Tana in the northern West Bank, confiscating their tractors and letting the villagers know that their homes would soon be demolished. On request from the villagers and the municipality of Beit Furik, a group of international volunteers from Project Hope visited the village the following day to hear and report their story.
Khirbet Tana is a small pastoral village 7 km east of the town of Beit Furik, outside of Nablus, and just west of the Mekhora settlement, overlooking the Jordan valley rift. The villagers are primarily shepherds and farmers who rely on the nearby springs and shared water wells for their animals and crops. The approximately 35 families who live there belong to the town of Beit Furik. However, due to the remote location of their fields they live in Khirbet Tana during winter and spring seasons. Some of the men live in the village all year.
Khirbet Tana is, according to the Oslo Accords, in Area C. It is therefore subject to full Israeli security and civilian administration. To build legally, the villagers would need Israeli building permits which are virtually impossible for Palestinians to obtain.
As with many other villages, close to illegal Israeli settlements, Khirbet Tana experiences regular harassment from settlers who come to intimidate them and damage their drinking water by bathing in it. The Mekhora settlement was established in 1973, and has only just over a hundred inhabitants. As an agricultural settlement however, it is controlling a large area of land previously belonging to Beit Furik. Tension between the village and the settlement has increased in recent years.
An ongoing struggle
For years, the residents of Khirbet Tana have been involved in an ongoing struggle to remain on their land. On July 5, 2005, Israeli forces demolished the entire village, including the school. The only building left was a 150 year old mosque. The reason given for this destruction was that the area could be used as a military training ground. However, the villagers were within a year able to rebuild it with the help of Italian and Israeli NGOs. On February 6, 2009, the Israeli High Court of Justice issued the final decision, sanctioning the demolition of the village and the expulsion of the entire population.
When the army arrived this time, they carried with them an order to confiscate tractors and other farming equipment. The soldiers also said they would return to destroy their houses at a later date. In light of this, the villagers fear that the decision of the Israeli High Court will soon be carried out.
The four farmers who lost their tractors must now go to the court in the settlement of Ariel to try to retrieve their confiscated property. They are also appealing the Palestinian Authority to take their case up with Israel to try to alter the decision.
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