NEZARETH, July 5, 2005 (WAFA)
The Israeli Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, B’Tselem, warned Tuesday of the Israeli efforts to expel about 1000 Palestinians living in cave homes in Hebron. In a report, B’Tselem said that in the 1970s, the Israeli military commander declared the area, southernmost West Bank, a “closed military area,” and for the past five years, Israel has been trying to expel the Palestinians living there in caves from the area.
The report said that in November 1999, Israeli soldiers and Israeli Civil Administration officials expelled the cave citizens and seized their meager belongings. “The army sealed caves, destroyed wells and outhouses, and prohibited the citizens from returning to the area”, the report said “the cave residents petitioned the Isreli High Court, and in March 2000, the Court issued a temporary injunction, returning them to the area and preventing the (Israeli) state from expelling them until the court reaches a final decision in the matter”
In addition to the threat of expulsion, the cave residents are victims of violence and property damage from the colonizers of nearby colonies.
In a survey conducted by B’Tselem, some 88% of the Palestinians in the closed military area were victims of colonizer violence or witnessed such violence against a member of their immediate family.
The abuse reported in the survey can be divided into four patterns: blocking of roads and preventing access to fields (51 percent of the cases), property damage, including destruction of crops and theft of sheep and goats in particular (21 percent), intimidation (17 percent), and physical violence (11 percent).
The report documents Israel ‘s attempts over the past five years to expel the cave residents through legal proceedings, and describes the lives of them under the intimidation of colonizers, the Israeli army and the Civil Administration.
The bleak picture of Israel’s treatment of the cave residents, as described in the report, raises the concern that Israel is attempting to gradually wear down them to get them to leave the area, an achievement they have not yet been able to attain in court.