West bank villagers cut off by Israel’s barrier and settlements

An Israeli flag over a view of the West Bank Jewish settlement of Ofra. (File photo: Reuters)

 For the villagers of Nabi Samuel, home is no longer sweet.

The Palestinian village northwest of Jerusalem has been cut off from its Arab hinterland by Israel’s meandering West Bank barrier.

The village has now been surrounded on all sides by the barrier and the expansion of Jewish settlements of Givat Ze’ev and Ramot, which have come between it and the West Bank. A section of the barrier separates settlements from West Bank villages of northwest Jerusalem, putting the settlements on the Israeli side and the villages on the Palestinian side.

Nabi Samuel is now stuck between the settlements.

“There is a huge harassment on the village, any project in the village isn’t allowed. We are not allowed to build, they demolish what we build. As you can see ,the main road in the village isn’t paved. We are not allowed to renew the water system. We asked for lighting the streets, we did not get permit. We are not allowed to have a sewage system, so the waste water goes through the land that affects the agriculture and even the health in the village,’’ Mohammed Barakat, a village councilor and lawyer who speaks on behalf of the community told Reuters Television.

An Israeli military checkpoint set within the separation barrier controls access from the village to the West Bank, isolating its 350 residents from their families.

Reaching Palestinian towns once a five-minute drive from Nabi Samuel can now take more than an hour. Visitors from the other side of the barrier must get Israeli permission to pass through a checkpoint.

“This is the only entrance to the village, it takes us to Jeep village. We used to have roads toward all villages North West of Jerusalem. This is now our only way to enter these villages. They control us,” Ramzi Barakat, Resident of Nabi Samuel, said.

The barrier is just one lasting consequence of the second Intifada -- an uprising whose failures are often cited by Palestinians as good reason to avoid more violent confrontation with a vastly more powerful adversary.

Israel says the barrier, a mix of electronic fences and walls that encroach on West Bank territory, is meant to keep suicide bombers out of its cities - and says it is working.

But Palestinians say it is aimed at seizing control of land, a disguised move to annex or fragment territory Palestinians seek for a viable state. The section that has cut Nabi Samuel off from the rest of the West Bank for example, also loops around nearby Jewish settlements deemed illegal by the world court, anchoring them to Israel.

“After the wall, it’s as though we are in a prison, it is a big prison. It has only one entrance. Entering or exiting this village is under certain conditions.

We as residents of the village are registered on the terminal, if someone forgets his ID or is not registered at the terminal is not allowed to enter the village. If someone wants to visit us we need to get a permit,” Barakat said.

The International court of Justice has declared the planned 600-km barrier illegal, but Israel has ignored the non-binding ruling. More than half the barrier has been completed.

The barrier’s course encompasses Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Although settlements lie on the Israeli side of the barrier, international law still considers them an illegal settlement on occupied West Bank land.

Villagers need permits to reconstruct roads, build houses or even have a mobile medical clinic inside Nabi Samuel.

Umm Salem Barakat, 62 years-old said that the army uprooted her new planted trees and told her that they were planted illegally and without a permit.

“I plant vegetables. I planted trees, they (army) uproot them. There is no work here, they are working inside the mosque, searching for monuments, when it finishes they will be unemployed,” she said.

The village takes it name from the Tomb of Samuel, an ancient Jewish burial site for the prophet Samuel. A mosque was built around the tomb in the 18th century and a small Jewish synagogue also located underground next to the tomb.

Residents say the barrier has increased the hardship of their daily lives. The landscape they were once familiar with has changed and many have been cut off from their families, neighbors, schools and agricultural land.

84-year-old Haja Shukria who used to own 128 dunums (32 acres) of agricultural land said 35 dunums of her land has been confiscated by Israeli authorities.

“Around 35 dunums (8.75 acres) of my land was confiscated under military orders. Around four areas, they are not next to each other. One area is 25 dunums (6.25 acres), the other 11 dunums (2.75acres), the other is 10 dunums (2.5 acres),” Haja Shukria explained.

The barrier and settlement expansion has left the village with a quarter of the 4500 dunums - around 1125 acres- lands which they own.

Givat Ze’ev which contains Har Shmuel , Givon HaHadasha, Har Adar and Givon, and Ramot settlement are located off the northern outskirts of Jerusalem. The settlements are home to 62,000 Jewish settlers and 650 Palestinians who live in al-Khalaileh Quarter and 350 live in Nabi Samuel.

While there is no barrier between Nabi Samuel and Jerusalem, villagers caught working there illegally face jail and a hefty fine. Ten have been caught in recent years. Two are still in prison.

Unemployment in the village runs at 90 percent, Barakat said. The village boasts one small grocery. Its school is a single room measuring 4 meters by 4 meters, which serves 11 pupils. Inevitably, younger people have started to leave.

By 2012, some 50 people had abandoned the village for the other side of the West Bank barrier in the previous two years.
 

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:41 - GMT 06:41
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