Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Our friends Nawal and Eid Barakat lost shelters for their animals and food storages

It’s Wednesday morning and I am leaving the office of Polish Representation in Ramallah. Unexpectedly my mobile is full of text messages about the demolitions carried away in Nabi Samwil. We know Nabi Samwil very well. We visit it regularly. It's a Palestinian village situated 10 minutes away from Jerusalem in a so called 'seam zone' - with Palestinians inhabitants trapped inside the Wall unable to get to Jerusalem or Israel.

Nabi Samwil is a place of amazing beauty and every time we go there I am shocked by juxtaposition of its beauty with the brutality of the occupation reality in this area. It feels almost unreal. Palestinian inhabitants of the village face settler attacks on regular basis and are not allowed to build any permanent structures. Their movement is heavily constrained, so while they can enjoy some of the most stunning views of Jerusalem, they have not been there for years. We visit regularly a small Palestinian school in Nabi Samwil and are friends with school’s headmaster. We also visit few families in a village.

“It is Nawal and Eid property that has been destroyed” - I read another text message. 


Couple of checkpoints later I rejoin the rest of my team and we go to Nabi Samwil together. As we enter Nawal and Eid’s house we freeze in shock. All of their animal shelters and food structures are destroyed. Eid is a farmer so the livestock that they have is the most important source of their income. Nawal is a teacher at the school in Al Khaleylah to which she travels everyday through the checkpoint.

Nawal is tears while Eid welcomes us with a sad smile. ‘Nice to see you friends. Look what they have done. We lost homes for our animals. Thanks God we are all in shape, but my nephew is in hospital’. Nawal explains that her eyes are still swollen because the soldiers used the teargas.

'All the animals are gone!' - exclaims Eid. They left in shock this morning. ‘Hopefully they will come back when they get hungry'. 

What happened at Nabi Samwil  
They start explaining what happened. Early in the morning around 40 - 50 armed forces came- border police and special forces. There were assisted by 5 heavy police cars (big dark green 4X4 heavily armed and protected) and two bulldozers. The bulldozers forced themselves in destroying the entrance. When Eid and his nephew run out of the house to save the animals they were served with the teargas. Police moved them away without giving any explanations. All they could do is to look as the bulldozers destroy their lives.

Forty minutes later, they report, the animal shelters where turned into rumbles while the fence and the barriers left in a complete mess. The job was done. Two hours later when we arrived it looks like after an earthquake. Or like if a meteor just hit this place.

As the bulldozers finished the job at Eid’s they moved towards his neighbor and cousin.

Eid and Nawal are no strangers to the demolitions. In 2007 their house was demolished. They later rebuilt small 1- storey structure in which they live with their kinds. Also this structure has a demolition order, but it was saved this time. 

Why Nabi Samwil is targeted   

Their land under Oslo has become part of Israeli controlled Area C of the West Bank where it is impossible to obtain a building permit. Therefore people are forced to build ‘illegally’ on their own land. Now that Nabi Samwil has become part of a Seam Zone Israeli authorities do whatever possible to make the life of remaining Palestinians impossible and to force them to leave. Nabi Samwil, with its strategic location on the hilltop overlooking Jerusalem and Ramallah and hosting a Tomb of Prophet Samuel in a local mosque is by no means too precious area to be left in the hands of Palestinians. So everything is being done to make the life of remaining families miserable. In the shadow of this misery structures settler houses grow like palaces without any problems.

Eid and Nawal, like other families of Nabi Samwil found themselves trapped in the geopolitics of the conflict. Which does not really help when it comes to the animals. Not only Eid needs a permit to bring every single bag of food for their animals through the checkpoint. Now his animals are deprived of a shelter and will need to sleep under the stars.

It’s almost noon and our team is the first one that visits. We feel so powerless. We come with nothing apart from words of support. But words are really not enough in this circumstance. We call Red Cross, but they say they do not deal with animals. We call ACTED that could provide animal shelters, but they say they need UN OCHA assessment first. We learn later that OCHA arrives the same day.

But when we visit Nawal and Eid on Saturday, they still do not have temporary animal shelters for their livestock. We go there again tomorrow.

Read more about mechanism of house demolitions here

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