Residents of Wadi al-Qatif west of Jericho face imminent expulsion

The Aran-Bedouin community of Wadi al-Qatif, located west of the city of Jericho, is home to 10 families comprising 68 people, including 32 minors. The community’s roots are in Tel Arad in the Negev, southern Israel. After becoming refugees, they moved in the 1950s to the Hebron region and then, in 1982, to the area near Jericho, in search of pastureland that would enable them to maintain their traditional lifestyle. There are 16 school-age children in Wadi al-Qatif and they study either in Jericho or in Aqbat Jaber Refugee Camp. The community has 18 residential huts, largely donated by the European Union, as well as a large hospitality tent and six sheep-pens that house their approximately 500 sheeps.

According to B’Tselem, the residents of the community have no alternative housing or place to live. As they earn their living tending sheep, in springtime, some of the residents lead the flocks to pasture in the Ramallah area, while the rest of the population stays behind. Eight years ago, Israeli security forces began restricting the movement of the community’s shepherds, prohibiting them to come any nearer than one kilometer to the settlement of Mitzpe Yeriho.

Khalil Hamdan, a resident of Wadi al-Qatif, and two community children (Photo: B'Tselem)

Khalil Hamdan, a resident of Wadi al-Qatif, and two community children (Photo: B’Tselem)

In 2012, the occupation Administration issued demolition orders for “construction without a permit” for all structures in Wadi al-Qatif. The residents turned to Att. Shlomo Lecker, who added the community to the petition he had already filed to the High Court of Justice to countermand demolition orders issued for other Bedouin communities in the area. In November 2012, the High Court of Justice issued an interim injunction that prohibited further demolition pending the state’s response to the petition. The state repeatedly postponed its response. At a session of the High Court on 24 April 2014, the state said it is interested in “relocating” the community to the region of Nu’eimeh, north-west of Jericho, where it plans to settle thousands of other Bedouins from the vicinity.

Justice Uzi Fogelman instructed the attorney representing the Civil Administration to have a concrete plan for resettling the community submitted to Att. Lecker within a week. However, on 28 April 2014, four days after the court session, while the court and the community’s legal counsel were waiting to receive the plan, representatives of the military and the Civil Administration arrived at Wadi al-Qatif and served eviction orders to four families comprised of 35 individuals, including 15 minors. The order stated the families must vacate the premises within 48 hours because they are in a “closed military zone designated for training.” Attempts to expel the members of Wadi al-Qatif from their site of residence are part and parcel of the Israeli endeavors to expel – on a variety of pretexts – thousands of Palestinians who live in dozens of communities throughout Area C. In the Ma’ale Adumim-Jericho area, these endeavors may be seen in the Civil Administration plan to establish “permanent sites” for the relocation of Palestinian Arab-Bedouin communities in the occupied West Bank.