At 6:30 A.M. on 18 March 2015, representatives of the Civil Administration arrived with a military escort at the shepherding community of Khallet Makhul in the northern Jordan Valley. Civil Administration bulldozers demolished four residential tents belonging to four of the community’s nine families. They also demolished 4 kitchens, 12 livestock enclosures and a tent used by one of the families to produce cheese. The very same day, the families erected tents they received from aid organizations to serve as substitute housing. The next evening, a military patrol arrived at the community. Once more, they demolished the tent of one of the families. The soldiers notified the three-person family, which now had no shelter, that should they erect another tent, the military would return and demolish it. The family has since erected another tent. Representatives of the Civil Administration or the military have not been back since.
The shepherding community of Khallet Makhul borders on the settlements of Hemdat to the south and Ro’i to the east. Khallet Makhul residents told B’Tselem there has been a Palestinian community there for over a century. Most of families of the current community arrived at the site in the 1960s and they lease the land from various owners – mostly members of the Daraghmeh family from Tubas. The present community has nine families, with a total population of 42, including 14 minors. They make their living primarily by raising flocks and rainwater-based farming on land close to the village. Khallet Makhul is not connected to a water network, nor is there any water source nearby that the residents can use. Consequently, they have no choice but purchase water from nearby villages and transport it home in tankers. In 2012, the Energy Research Center at An-Najah National University, Nablus, furnished the community with a solar energy system that supplies the residents with sufficient electricity to meet their needs.
This is not the first time that the authorities have demolished homes in Khallet Makhul. On 16 September 2013, Civil Administration representatives and soldiers demolished every structure in the village. Then, for several days, they prevented the residents from erecting alternative structures and confiscated tents and other equipment provided by aid organizations. The residents subsequently petitioned Israel’s High Court of Justice. The petition, filed by Att. Tawfiq Jabarin, sought the residents be allowed to rebuild and not have the rebuilt structures demolished. The petition was dismissed after the parties agreed that the residents apply to the Judea and Samaria planning committee for construction permits. The residents told B’Tselem that eight of the families filed applications and paid the attendant fees, and their applications are pending either in planning committees or in court. Three of the four structures demolished belong to families who had filed applications. Therefore, the Civil Administration, even according to its own regulations, has no authority to demolish them. On 24 March 2015 Att. Jabarin filed a renewed petition on behalf of the resident to the High Court of Justice, seeking that further demolitions in the community, including of the tents erected after the most recent demolition, be prevented. On the same day the petition was filed, the High Court of Justice issued an injunction that the State not carry out any further demolitions.
The demolitions in Khallet Makhul are part of a long-standing policy by Israeli authorities to displace, citing a host of pretexts, thousands of Palestinians who live in dozens of small communities throughout Area C, the West Bank. At various times, Israeli officials have stated that they are interested in taking over Area C, and particularly the Jordan Valley, with a view to creating conditions that would make Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley a permanent fixture in the long run, even as part of a diplomatic agreement. Meanwhile, in practice, Israel is annexing Area C and taking action to minimize Palestinian presence there.
Israel, as the occupying force in the West Bank, must allow the local population to carry on with their lives. This obligation includes allowing them to build their homes legally, utilize water sources and preserve their way of life.
B’Tselem calls on the authorities responsible to allow the residents of Khallet Makhul to carry on living unmolested in their community, to tend their flocks as they have done for nearly fifty years, and allow them to develop their community and better their living conditions.