“When you have a home, you can close the door and feel safe inside”. This is what Reem said the day her house was demolished in 2019. Today, Reem as well as over 2,000 Palestinians face yet another imminent threat of displacement in Masafer Yatta.
Masafer Yatta is a semi desert area located southeast of Hebron district in the West Bank. It is home to twelve Palestinian communities whose livelihood depend mainly on agriculture and raising livestock.
Palestinian communities in Masafer Yatta have been living in fear of losing their homes for decades. They have witnessed countless demolition orders and constant displacement. In May 2022, the Israeli Hight Court of Justice (IHCJ) ruled eight communities could be evicted from Masafer Yatta, declared as "'Firing Zone 918" in 1981.
Ever since the HCJ's decision, the communities have been living in serious fear of being displaced. The humanitarian consequences of this decision would have an immense impact on their psychological and socioeconomic situation, particularly on the most vulnerable; children and the elderly. They fear not only the displacement, but also the total loss of their lifestyle and main sources of income in the lack of other alternatives, says Moaathe Enayet, ICRC Head of Sub-delegation in Hebron.
Should the demolition orders be executed, houses, livelihood structures, schools, medical clinics, the water network and solar panels in Masafer Yatta will be directly affected.
The decision means the expulsion of around 2,100 Palestinians from Masafer Yatta. The communities are unprotected and at risk of displacement at any moment now, says Mr. Nidal Younes, the Head of the Masafer Yatta Village Council.
In addition to the challenges the inhabitants of Masafer Yatta face in light of the continuous demolition orders, their proximity to Israeli settlements puts them at more risk. Due to the proximity of the Israeli outpost, the inhabitants do not have access to the main roads and are obliged to take long and unpaved detour routes.
Access to water is another difficulty faced by the inhabitants.
The destruction of the main water network has increased the expenses of water in our household, says Abu Raed.
The high prices of water are not the only problem. Because of bad road conditions, Abu Raed and the other community members face difficulties in transferring the water tanks they purchase.
Furthermore, owing to the lack of water, the productivity of the communities' livestock has also decreased immensely, not to mention the increased rate of abortion among the sheep.
Last year, I couldn't vaccinate my sheep because I didn't have enough money, says Abu Mohammad.
Unable to use the direct access road, local herders suffer financial losses as they find themselves unable to sell their dairy products in local markets.
Eight out of twelve communities in Masafer Yatta will be directly affected by the most recent eviction order. It's true that the remaining four communities would be permitted to stay; however, they will still be prohibited from constructing additional buildings and infrastructures and will continue to live with economic hardship.