Published on 19 December 2013, written by Alternative Information Center
Last week a powerful snowstorm hit the West Bank, bringing the region to a standstill. The small communities of the West Bank’s South Hebron Hills did not escape the extreme weather conditions and a number of properties in Khallet Athaba’ and Al Mufaqarah were reported damaged.
On the night of Wednesday the 11thof December, snow fell on the South Hebron Hills and gale force winds battered the small communities, causing a number of damages. The community of Khallet Athaba’, which lies within the borders of Firing Zone 918, was the most affected.
The residential tent of one family was torn open by the gale, allowing gushes of water to leak inside. At another home, the concrete bricks of the structure crumbled and collapsed, causing the roof to cave in.
A window made from plastic sheeting was completely destroyed by the strong gale, letting rain and snow inside and causing partial flooding, which destroyed many of the family’s belongings.
The roof of another house was shattered by a boulder that detached from a nearby rock face and hit the metal sheet covering the small shelter. Fortunately, the owner managed to escape his home before it was too late. The house was flooded and all of the residents’ belongings were ruined by water and mud.
The family, including small children, found themselves out in the open and decided to move into a cave normally used to shelter livestock.
The family are now living in a narrow room, partially divided from the cave by a small concrete wall. The community has been left helpless – the occupation has denied them the basic raw materials and goods to rebuild their homes, so residents are now calling upon international organisations for aid. Families have requested assistance from the UN but have yet to receive a response.
The community of Al Mufaqarah was also hit by the storm, but fortunately suffered far fewer damage, with only one tent destroyed in the gale. The affected family, however, lost almost all their belongings and have been forced to take taken shelter in a small, concrete structure.
Although the intense storm wreaked havoc across the West Bank in record strength, it is clear that the suffering of the South Hebron Hills communities is strongly exacerbated by the prohibitive building policies implemented by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territory. The area falls under complete Israeli military and administrative control, and it is virtually impossible for residents to obtain building permits. As a result, Palestinians are forced to live in tents or to build shelters illegally, knowing there is a high probability that the structures will soon after be demolished.To save their limited resources, the villagers construct the houses very quickly, making do with few materials, meaning that the structures are often unstable and therefore unable to withstand storms of the unprecedented magnitude seen this December.
On March 6th of this year, Israeli soldiers entered the small village of Khallet Athaba’ delivering 20 stop-working orders, issued by the District Coordination Office (DCO). Moreover, asKhallet Athaba’ and Al Mufaqarah are located within Firing Zone 918, they are constantly facing the threat of eviction and demolition.