70 Bedouin Ordered to Leave Homes Near West Bank Settlement

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A Bedouin encampment is seen in the E1 area, between Jerusalem and the Israeli West Bank settlement of Maale Adumim, on December 3, 2012. Credit: AFP

Israel’s Civil Administration has ordered 70 Bedouin, including 27 children, to evacuate their homes near the West Bank settlement of Mitzpeh Yeriho, even though the government body was responsible for moving them there in the first place.

A protest letter sent to the Civil Administration Wednesday says the evacuation order ignores the obligation to “protect the basic rights of the residents,” especially during the winter.

The community, of the Kaabneh tribe, was moved to the area 30 years ago. Nonetheless, the evacuation order issued Monday refers to a “new incursion” onto state land.

It comes shortly after residents brought in prefabricated structures to replace the same number of tents and rickety tin shacks in which they had been living. The office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories said the structures were illegal

The evacuees comprise one of about 25 communities of the Jahalin and Kaabneh tribes scattered on the eastern outskirts of Jerusalem, all of which the Civil Administration has targeted for forced evacuation and resettlement to a town north of Jericho to allow for the expansion of settlements in the Adumim bloc.

In other Bedouin communities where residents began replacing their tents and shacks with prefab structures, the Civil Administration issued pre-demolition stop-work orders, which were suspended in response to petitions to the High Court of Justice. In this case, ordering the residents to evacuate rather than attempting to stop the work makes it easier for the state to hastily remove the residents from the area, said attorney Shlomo Locker.

Locker sent a letter of protest on Wednesday to the Civil Administration’s central inspection unit, saying, “Choosing this order ignores the obligation of the civil administration to protect the basic rights of the residents, particularly their protection during the winter, and ignores the civil administration’s obligation to act with administrative fairness and correctness.”

The Coordinator of Government Activities said the new structures were supposed to be evacuated by last night.

“Over the past two years, some 200 illegal prefabricated structures have been erected in the Wadi Kelt area, most of them built on weekends and overnight, because it was understood that this construction was illegal,” the spokesman said in a statement. “In recent days, 15 structures were illegally erected on state land. These orders refer solely to the new structures, which must be evacuated 48 hours from when the order is delivered.” The spokesman did not respond to Haaretz’s question about where the people were supposed to live if they had to evacuate the buildings.

Two Civil Administration inspectors and three Border Policemen arrived Monday evening at the small area housing the extended Arara family, near the western entrance to Wadi Kelt, alongside Route 1 in the direction of Jericho and about four kilometers from Mitzpeh Yeriho. The chief inspector issued 15 “Requirement to evacuate” warnings.

The inspectors came when most of the community’s men were out grazing their flocks, according to a member of the Kaabneh tribe who asked to be identified only by his initials, A.G. He said the inspectors brought the orders and left.

The Arara family, like most of the Bedouin in the region, were expelled from the Negev in 1948 and settled in the eastern West Bank.

A.G. said that in 1980 or 1981, when he was still a child, “they cleared us out from the place where I was born when they built the settlement of Kfar Adumim, and moved us to Wadi Kelt.”

“Then they started to build the settlement of Mitzpeh Yeriho, and the Civil Administration moved us to where we are now,” he said.

The orders are not addressed to the heads of the households but “To the holder,” and the signature scribbled on the order is unreadable. The coordinator of government activities office said the order is addressed to “the holder of the structure” when “the owner doesn’t cooperate with the inspector and does not identify himself, as happened in this case.”

The details of the orders are confusing. Under “Description of the Land,” it says: “Structures of light pallets, grey in color, of around 30 sq. meters,” as if to say that the residents must evacuate their homes, but not the land itself. But under “Description of the Incursion,” it says that this is “A new incursion onto state land that includes light construction.”

Because they erected the prefab structures two weeks ago, A.G. said, the community weathered the recent storm far better than they had in previous years, when they were basically open to the elements.

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