The Palestinians who have managed to remain in the Masafer Yatta area of the South Hebron Hills face imminent forcible transfer by the Israeli government.
The residents of these rural communities have lived in this part of the West Bank for decades, many of them since before the Israeli military occupation began in 1967 and long before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. Many families have documents proving ownership of the land.
A pending case regarding the Masafer Yatta communities has remained before Israel’s high court since 2000. But a few years ago the Israeli authorities confirmed their intention to evacuate eight of the twelve villages, “exposing 1,000 people to the imminent threat of forcible transfer, which amounts to a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions and a war crime,” according to the human rights group Al-Haq.
Conditions in the villages are hard. They are not connected to water and electricity networks.
Children study far away from home because Israel forbids the building of public service infrastructure like schools and health clinics. Residents are frequently harassed by Israelis from the surrounding settlements encroaching on the villages’ lands.
Families in two other Masafer Yatta communities have already been forced to leave because of settler violence, according to the United Nations monitoring group OCHA.
Dozens of residential and agricultural structures in the villages have received demolition or stop work orders, forcing families to live in substandard housing.
Text by The Electronic Intifada. Photos and captions by West Bank-based photojournalist Mohammad Alhaj.