Israel’s Civil Administration in the West Bank has confiscated eight large tarpaulins meant to protect residents of a Bedouin tent from the rain, claiming they would be used for illegal construction.
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The residents of the tent encampment, known as Khan al-Ahmar Tabaneh, belong to a large Bedouin tribe east of Jerusalem that Israel plans to forcibly relocate to a new town north of Jericho. The tarps were donated by the Palestinian Agriculture Ministry as part of its efforts to help agricultural communities protect themselves and their crops from the weather.
During last Thursday’s storm, a ministry vehicle that wasn’t able to reach one of the encampment’s five tents left eight large tarps – each 10 by 7 meters – on a nearby hill. The encampment is on the road from Jericho to Abu Dis, near the settlement of Kfar Adumim.
Mousa Tabaneh, a resident of the tent – which houses some 10 families – told Haaretz the tarps were mainly meant to shelter the children and sheep. But before the residents could pick them up, they saw someone get out of an Israeli civilian car and photograph them.
About an hour later, at 2:45 P.M., Civil Administration inspectors arrived and, after a brief conversation with the residents, confiscated the tarps. The inspectors said they were seizing the tarps because they were slated to be used for illegal construction, residents said.
Residents said the civilian car they spotted probably belonged to someone from Regavim, an organization devoted to “protecting Israel’s national lands.” Regavim denied the accusation.
A spokeswoman for Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories said the tarps were seized “because there was a well-founded suspicion that the tarps were meant for use in illegal construction in the area.” She did not respond to questions about the identity of the civilian who informed the Civil Administration about the tarps, or whether such cooperation was common. She also declined to respond to a question about how the Civil Administration expected the Bedouin to protect themselves from the rain.
Like the rest of the Jahalin tribe, the Tabaneh clan is originally from the Negev, but was expelled to the West Bank (then under Jordanian rule) in 1948. The community supports itself by sheepherding and working as hired laborers.
About two months ago, the Civil Administration published its plan for moving thousands of Bedouin from three different tribes to a new town north of Jericho called Talet Nueima. The tribes, which currently live east of Jerusalem or in the Jordan Valley, oppose this plan and have filed dozens of objections to it with the relevant planning agencies.
For now, court orders bar the Civil Administration from evicting the Bedouin. But the administration refuses to let them make any changes – even minor ones like adding a tent or a prefab building – to accommodate natural population growth. Any such addition is served with a demolition order.
A defense official told Haaretz that the area where the tarps were seized is “rife with illegal construction, so enforcement operations against illegal building are carried out there frequently.”