A day after heavy winter storms brought much needed rain to the country, military authorities demolished 11 water reservoirs belonging to Bedouin in the southern Hebron Hills.
The move, intended to push Bedouin off IDF firing ranges, left dozens of families in the region with no water for their sheep and livestock.
Last week the IDF's Civil Administration distributed demolition orders for all the waterholes and reservoirs in the area.
The orders, issued in 2005, gave the Bedouin only seven days to thwart the demolition scheduled for Tuesday.
The IDF requires a permit for any structure in the West Bank, including holes meant to hold water, even those dug under Jordanian rule and before the State of Israel's establishment.
Bulldozers sent by the Civil Administration arrived on Tuesday to destroy the reservoirs, both old and new, and fill in the holes with dirt.
The largest reservoir, built by Mahmoud Marzuk Hadlin's family in 1944, contained 20,000 cubic meters of water that flowed from there into desert canals. It served as the watering hole for 15 families' herds. The bulldozer smashed the reservoir ceiling and toppled it into the hole, spilling the precious water into the desert sand.
"I'll build the hole again soon," Marzuk, 73, said yesterday, looking for alternative water sources.
"Some of the holes were here before the army came, before these lands were declared fire practice areas," said the family head, Yusuf. "I can understand destroying a hole from seven years ago, but one from dozens of years ago?"
Human rights groups said they would send water tankers to the area.
The Civil Administration has stepped up enforcement in the West Bank over the past six weeks, officials told Haaretz.
Yesterday it demolished an inhabited house in the settlement of Tekoa, although it was not recently built and located on state-owned land.
The administration said in depositions to the High Court of Justice that it would crack down first on newly built homes, and then on homes built on private Palestinian lands.
However, it has done nothing to stop illegal construction in Eli, Ofra and other West Bank settlements.
Nor is it demolishing houses built on private Palestinian land in Amona and Givat Asaf, Haaretz has learned.
MK Aryeh Eldad yesterday contributed NIS 1,000 to rebuild the house in Tekoa and called on the public to chip in as well.
"We're tired of the defense minister turning the civil administration into his political arm and buying his political survival by demolishing settlers' homes," Eldad said.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now