HEBRON (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces leveled privately-owned Palestinian lands in the village of Umm al-Kheir in the southern occupied West Bank on Thursday morning, in order to install a sewer pipe to service the illegal Israeli settlement of Karmel that lies some 500 meters away from Umm al-Kheir, local sources said.
An official Israeli source told Ma'an on Friday that it was "renovation work" of an existing sewer line in the settlement.
Meanwhile, Umm al-Kheir itself suffers from lack of infrastructure and has no sewage network, while the bulk of domestic wastewater is discharged and disposed in cesspits, according to the Applied Research Institute - Jerusalem (ARIJ).
Ratib al-Jabour, coordinator of a local committee that resists settlement activity, said that Israeli bulldozers leveled Palestinian agricultural land owned by the al-Hathalin and Awad families in the village.
Located east of the southern occupied West Bank city of Yatta, Umm al-Kheir is small community -- an island surrounded by an Israeli military-controlled expanse and disconnected from other Palestinian-inhabited areas.
The community has faced ongoing threats of displacement since the Karmel settlement was illegally established in 1981, and has since expanded onto villagers’ lands.
Robert Piper said that the villages of Umm al-Kheir, Dkaika, Khan al Ahmar, Abu Nuwwar, and Susiya were “just some of the highly vulnerable communities where families, many of whom are Palestine refugees, live in permanent fear of becoming homeless and children wonder if they will still have a school to attend tomorrow.”
In April, 35 Palestinians were left homeless
when Israeli authorities demolished structures in the village, a further 27 were displaced in August
when EU-funded homes were destroyed, and just weeks later, three Palestinian homes and a cultural center were also demolished
by Israeli authorities in Umm al-Kheir.
At the time of the demolitions in April, Umm al-Kheir resident Suleiman al-Hathalin referred to the incident as “ethnic cleansing.”
“Thirty-five people have become homeless, while settlers of the illegal Karmel settlement are living a luxurious life only a few steps away from my home,” he told Ma’an, adding that Israeli forces had demolished his home in effort to displace him.
Thursday’s settlement activity on Umm al-Kheir’s lands came the same morning that Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, passed a first reading of the so-called “Legalization bill,"
which would see thousands of dunams of privately-owned Palestinian land seized and dozens of illegal Israeli outposts in the occupied West Bank retroactively legalized.
Education Minister and leader of the Jewish Home party Naftali Bennett expressed great satisfaction regarding the outcome of the first reading, calling it “a day of extreme pride,” and a step towards broader annexation of the occupied West Bank.
“The next step is to impose Israeli sovereignty on Maale Adumim,” Bennett added, referring to the third largest illegal Israeli settlement in population size, encompassing a large swath of land deep inside the occupied West Bank where other Bedouin communities reside and are at risk of forcible transfer by Israel.
All Israeli settlements and outposts in the occupied Palestinian territory are deemed illegal under international law, despite the Israeli government’s official recognition of the some 196 settlements -- including Karmel -- scattered across the occupied West Bank.