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Israeli army destroys water cisterns and dwellings in southern West Bank

Israeli bulldozers entered the Palestinian village of Zenuta in the South Hebron Hills Tuesday morning and demolished water cisterns, residential dwellings and sheep stables, devastating the small community of only seven families. 

By Sean O’Neill

Palestinian children n front of their destroyed home in Zenuta, August 28 2012 (Operation Dove)

Zenuta, West Bank – At around 10 a.m. on Tuesday, a group of Palestinians from the village of Zenuta watched from across a valley in the South Hebron Hills as two Israeli army bulldozers suddenly appeared and destroyed their village’s water cisterns, cave dwellings and stables. The village, divided by a valley, is just 3 kilometers from the Green Line, at the southern tip of the West Bank.

The bulldozers in Zenuta were accompanied by five army jeeps, three vehicles from the Israeli Civil Administration, and a charter bus of Israeli soldiers, trying to keep activists and members of the press from entering the village. A group of about 20-25 Palestinian men, women, and children who were there at the time sat in front of one of the bulldozers in an effort to stop them. They were quickly removed, however, by the army and the destruction commenced.

Israeli bulldozers demolish water cistern in Zenuta August 28, 2012 (Operation Dove)

In total, four water cisterns, two caves, two houses and six stables were destroyed. Zenuta is a small village of seven families with a herd of 400 sheep.  The army destroyed the houses of two families, each with seven children, as well as six stables holding sheep. Perhaps most devastating of all in a region starved for water, the army bulldozed the village’s cisterns, holding water collected from winter rains.  The cisterns cost NIS 15,000 each, an incredible toll amounting to about a year and half’s wages for the average Palestinian worker in the area.  The cisterns had been filled with water after a winter that brought the best rainfall in at least 10 years, according to residents of the area.  Now two young boys walked around with the only two bottles of water left in the village offering it to visitors.

Mohammed Khaled Samamry, the owner of one of the houses destroyed, was indignant.  “Can you live without water?” he asked, his hand trembling slightly with frustration.  “What can we do without water?  What can we drink?  You see what they do to us, the Israelis?  They left the kids sitting under the sun, the sheep in the field.  Where will we sleep tonight?”

A handful of children sat quietly, shocked and sad, in the midst of twisted metal rods and pots and pans scattered on the ground.  The sheep wandered aimlessly in a field, nibbling at the straw.

According to Israeli activists, three tents were also destroyed Tuesday morning in Susya, a nearby village that is under threat of demolition. The tents were built by the UN’s OCHA department, and were destroyed by the army once before, last November.

The destruction comes in the midst of a wider threat to the villages in this region. In July, Israel issued orders to wipe out the nearby villages of Jinba, Farkheti, Majaz, Sfai, Khoruba, Tabban, Mirkez, and Halawah. Demolition orders have also been issued for structures in the villages of Mufagara and Tuba. In all, over 1,500 residents are at risk of losing their homes.

Sean O’Neill is a freelance journalist based in Jerusalem. Mairav Zonszein contributed to this report.  

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    1. jo

      Senseless. The USA is supporting these actions. This is BAD for America and it’s unbelievable that smart people like the Israeli’s do NOT SEE that it is BAD for Israel.

      How can the Rabbi’s in the millions of synagogues in America justify this behavior to their congregants? What is their defect that they can stand by say NOTHING and do NOTHING as an entire population is collectively punished only because they exist. It is bitterly ironic and sickening.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Bluegrass Picker of Afula

      >> tents were built by the UN’s OCHA department

      That organization has full jurisdiction about tents in the Turtle Bay compound of the United Nations enclave in Manhattan. They have no more right to put up tents in Yesha or Shomron than they do in Zucotti Park.

      Reply to Comment
      • JG

        So in your own words, Graspicker, they have as much jurisdiction over the West Bank as the bulldozing Israelis. None.
        Thanks for clarifying that.

        Reply to Comment
    3. Destroying water reserves in a dessert is a local final solution. It would be nice if an estimate of the actual water loss could be provided, to point out what has really been done in such loss as well as the cisterns’ cost.

      This is a final solution: they are to leave or desiccate. Living in a desert, I know exactly what this State act means.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Bluegrass Picker of Afula

      The land is part of the Hebrew Republic. Those who make tents, or cisterns, or whatever there without our bureaucratic permission, will just have to go to wherever the British sent the Argentinian authorities of Islas Malvinas. I understand it’s right next to the Saami land that the Norwegians conquered and occupied. The world seems to be able to live with those situations without disturbing their enjoyment of Starbucks Lattes. By the way, does our esteemed Original Poster imagine that her home in North America was “a land without a people for a people without a land”, before her grandparents arrived from East Europe?

      Reply to Comment
    5. The Nazis held the same view as you, Picker–lebensraum. They were defeated, and Germany rose again, with the help of her victors. You do not oppose the thought of the Nazis–only that you are not of their nation.

      You do not see people desiccate, but only less of the perpetual enemy not you.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Bluegrass Picker of Afula

      I corresponded with the son of General Mati Peled, he’s now a “peace camp activist” living in the VERY upscale part of San Diego known as City of Coronado. He refuses to beleive that San Diego wasn’t empty before european folks arrived. Doesn’t believe me when
      I referred him to the still-extant tribal government which still would like their land back. By the way, Greg…. where exactly do you live, maybe I’ll organize a boycott against your economic activities. Or are you on Food Stamps like the Hassidic families?

      Reply to Comment
    7. Paul Brit of Bosnia

      Colonialism and land theft started well before the Roman Empire and we have plenty of problems caused by the European expansions from 17th to 20th centuries. That these acts and the acts of the Nazis occurred does not make the land theft and state terrorism of the Israelis acceptable. The rest of the world is moving on. Israel seems to want to stay in the period of the Hassidic tradition: the 17th century. And yes, the UK should come to deals over the Malvinos and Gibraltar, etc.

      Reply to Comment