On the outskirts of the foothills of Masafer Yatta, south of the city of Hebron, sits Khirbet Umm Al-Khair, where its people cling to the land with a combination of pain and determination.
They endure the challenges of continuous Israeli persecution, including the demolition of homes and agricultural structures, confiscation of water tanks, and constant threats to wipe it the entire village out of existence. There is no reliable access to water, electricity, means of transportation, or access to the communications grid.
With all of their strength, the people of Umm Al-Khair confront the occupying military’s bulldozers, defending their modest tin-roofed homes, which barely protect them and their children from the heat of summer and the cold of winter. They cling to their village despite its transformation into a small “khirbeh” no greater than 400 dunams, half of which the occupation controls, which has severely limited their ability to sustain the livestock upon which their livelihood depends. They are prohibited from building, while the settlers of the “Carmel” settlement, which is located on the lands of Umm Al-Khair, enjoy the necessities of modern life.
It is a competition against time and a struggle for survival. We cling to the land of our fathers and grandfathers. Death will not stop us from defending it. They demolish while we rebuild. They confiscate our lands while we are steadfast. The settlers attack us while we are resilient and cannot respond. We are steadfast and we will remain steadfast, but for how long?
The entire village of Umm Al-Khair is suffering from a fierce ongoing attack by the occupation and its settlers. It began when the settlers prevented the shepherds from grazing their sheep or leaving the village, even to tend to the crops they themselves had planted. Eventually, the settlers completely prevented the shepherds from leaving the village, forcing some shepherds to sell their sheep, their only source of income.
One shepherd, who prefers to remain anonymous, said that for decades, herding has been dangerous because of the proximity of the “Carmel” settlement, where the occupation forces or groups of settlers sometimes open fire on them and threaten them if they try to approach their lands or graze sheep on them. That was only the beginning of the occupation’s assault on Umm Al-Khair. Eventually, occupation forces confiscated Palestinian lands on the northern and southern sides of the village, declaring them the lands of the Israeli state and under the rule of the settlers who live in the area.
About 5 days ago, one of the hateful settlers chased the shepherds. One of the shepherds reached the village. Then this settler began shouting at the residents and telling them they must sell their sheep because the land now belongs to him. The people of the village gathered and completely rejected that and did not accept the settler or his words. But he quickly called the Israeli police and the Civil Administration, and when they arrived at the village of Umm Al-Khair, they told the people of Umm Al-Khair that the settler is the new owner of the land and that the residents are not allowed to leave the village at all or to graze their sheep.
They also told us that the settler’s lands now extend up to the entrance to the village. The Civil Administration also told us to remove the village’s only water line, which is used by more than 200 people who live in the village. The reason is that, according to their claim, the water network is located on settler lands. This new confiscation of lands has put the people in a very, very difficult situation, as Umm Al-Khair has now become a prison. You cannot move at all according to their law. We are now completely surrounded by the Israeli settlement: the settlement continues to expand on three sides of our village, and on the fourth side, they have built farms for their poultry on other Palestinian lands that were confiscated.
Umm Al-Khair has been suffering for decades from a lack of water and electricity and the demolition of homes. Our homes have been demolished more than 17 times, and more than 109 homes have been destroyed, leaving behind many people who have become homeless. Now, the situation in the village is very, very dangerous, as more than half of the village’s land has been confiscated and residents cannot use it.
The people of Umm Al-Khair call on international institutions concerned with human rights to provide protection for them and to intervene to stop the repeated settlers’ attacks on them. people of Umm Al-Khair affirm that they will not leave their land, that they will face the challenge of the settlement, and that they are prepared to face the worst