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Palestine family struggles with their home under Israeli military surveillance

August 19, 2022 at 1:22 pm

Israeli forces in Jerusalem on 3 August 2022 [Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency]

In the garden of his home, Sa’adat Gharib and his mother pick figs from the only tree that was saved from the Israeli confiscation of the Gharib family’s land in the village of Beit Ijza, located north-west of Jerusalem, Anadolu News Agency reports.

They warmly greet their guests, who must pass through a gate at the entrance to their home, which is constantly being monitored by cameras and soldiers.

The Gharib family’s home is surrounded on three sides by a separation wall with sensors, with the fourth side controlled through the gate.

The gate was closed for three months in 2007, and the family was not able to open it.

“The gate is directly connected to the police station in Atarot. During those days, we had to call the International Committee of the Red Cross and many human rights organisations to ask the army to open the gate. My father was in a very critical health situation, but the army ignored this. We had to wait many hours despite the emergency situation,” Sa’adat told Anadolu Agency.

The world is marking 19 August as World Humanitarian Day, which focuses on the importance, effectiveness and positive impact of humanitarian work.

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According to the UN, it is a day to advocate for the survival, well-being and dignity of people affected by crises.

In Beit Ijza, Palestinians carried out humanitarian work to protect themselves from Israeli assaults, especially since the village is suffering from deep marginalisation.

According to Mohammad Mari, the head of the local council of Beit Ijza, the people of the village work collectively to attain what they can of their “stolen” rights.

“We constantly struggle to do normal activities, whether in building our homes or reaching our planted lands. We can’t reach our lands most of the time and the army often confiscates our building tools. But we will never stop our struggle,” he said.

Directly behind the wall, there is an Israeli settlement on the land of the village that saw the first clashes with the Israeli army against the building of the separation wall in 2002.

According to Sa’adat, the Israeli authorities confiscated 100 dunums (10 hectares) of his father’s land gradually between 1978 and 2002, along with another 1,200 dunums (120 hectares) for the other villagers to build the separation wall.

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Beit Ijza is one of the smallest Palestinian villages in Jerusalem, with a land area of around 2,500 dunums (250 hectares). The lands of Beit Ijza are classified as B and C, at 6.7 per cent and 93.3 per cent, according to the administrative divisions in the 1995 Oslo Accord.

Under the 1995 Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA), the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, was divided into three portions – Area A, B and C.

Israel prevents Palestinians from conducting construction projects in parts of the West Bank designated as Area C under the agreement, which falls under administrative and security control of Israel.

Area C is currently home to 300,000 Palestinians, the vast majority of whom are Bedouins and herding communities who predominantly live in tents, caravans and caves.

B means that the Palestinian Authority has only civilian authority on the land, but not security authority, while it enjoys the civilian and security authorities over A lands.

From 1978 until his death in 2012, Sa’adat’s father never stopped defending his land and home. He was arrested more than 35 times by the Israeli army.

Sa’adat recalled the many times that the army attacked the home and arrested the whole family, even his elderly parents.

He highlighted that the settlers and the police offered to buy the home from his father and also from him, but the family has categorically rejected such offers.

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“During one of my arrests, I was cuffed when the settler who lives adjacent to my house threw a rock at my head. The injury was very deep and I lost large amounts of blood. This settler used to provoke my family,” he told Anadolu Agency.

“He knows how conservative we are, and to provoke us, once he sees one of my sisters or female relatives around the house, he goes fully naked to the terrace overlooking my yard,” he added.

Sa’adat noted that many times, his children were harassed by settlers and soldiers while playing football.

“One day, tens of soldiers came to the yard of the house and arrested my children because their football had fallen behind the wall. Three boys were arrested. The oldest one was 10 years old,” he said.

The children were interrogated in the presence of their father and were released on bail.

International law views the West Bank and East Jerusalem as “occupied territories” and considers all Jewish settlement-building activity there illegal.