Monday, September 25, 2017

Al Mufaqara to rebuild mosque for the third time

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By Jessica Purkiss - January 01, 2013
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Section: [Main News] [In Pictures] [Life under Occupation]
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On December 22nd residents of Al Mufaqara village in the South Hebron Hills began to clear the remains of their mosque in preparation for its rebuild, which was destroyed by the Israeli military on December 4th.

This will be the third time the mosque will be rebuilt after its second demolition in two years. The villagers of Al Mufaqara had only finished putting on the roof when the bulldozers arrived.
 
The residents were joined by around 20 international activists who came to show their solidarity with the village. Around 30 Israeli soldiers, who had arrived in four military jeeps earlier in the morning, watched over the group after initially attempting to prevent the activists from accessing the village in the first place.
 
“To co-operate to build a mosque— which is a symbol for us and of Islam— shows that we are hand in hand,” said Yousef from the nearby village of Yatta.
 
Al Mufaqara lies in an Israeli military declared 'firing zone’ adjacent to the Green Line. The village also resides in Area C, a region which falls under complete Israeli military and administrative control.
 
Area C constitutes around 60% of the West Bank. Despite this, Israel denies Palestinian citizens the right to build on 70% of this land.
 

A story of resistance
 
Al Mufaqara is a story of resistance, studded with evictions, demolition orders and arrests. In 1999 the villagers were evicted from their land after only 24 hours of notice. Following an Israeli High Court appeal they were able to return to their land six months later. However the Israeli army still prevents them building any structures upon it.
 
The Israeli authorities claim legality upon two points. The first is based upon a master plan of the area, approved by the British Mandate authorities in 1942 in which the area was zoned for agriculture, therefore curtailing building.
 
This ignores the fact that Jewish settlements in the same area are not under the same restrictions; in fact they have a separate planning track for which the Israeli authorities have made the necessary changes to the British plans.
 
Secondly Israeli military has assigned the land as a 'firing zone’ and claim it is of 'operational necessity’ that this land is clear of residents.
 
This has led the people of Al-Mufaqara to reside in cave dwellings that lack basic amenities whilst at the same time being surrounded by four settlements, all of which enjoy access to electricity and water.
 
While the Palestinians in the South Hebron Hills area consume a mere 28 liters of water per capita per day, below the World Health Organization recommended 100 liters and in line with regions such as Darfur, those in the surrounding settler outposts consume 211 liters per capita per day.
 
Many of the families have 10 to 15 members cramped into one cave, and so the residents have been forced to expand the caves instead of build houses. According to Mahmoud Zawahre from the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, the health risks of this are severe and a group of researchers that came to conduct studies on the caves found high levels of radiation.
 
 
We have no support from government, they came to just see and talk but they have never done anything
 
With the help of the Popular Struggle Co-ordination Committee the village continues to fight the occupation with its very existence.
 
“These people are not Bedouins, they are a real community living here. They live here, they have been born here and their parents have been born here. They motivate us instead of us motivating them,” said Mahmoud Zawahre.
 
Speaking on the constant battle with the Israeli authorities Zawahre said, “They distribute orders in the area for evacuation for security reasons and they place the orders where no-one can see them. The villagers are given the right to appeal for one week, but by the time they find out and prepare the paperwork the week is over.”
 
The villagers have to continuously be ready to defend their existence.
 
“We have no support from government, they came to just see and talk but they have never done anything,” said one villager from inside his cave.
 
“It is very important to rebuild anything the occupation destroys, keep our existence, of course our struggle is to stop the occupation and knock it out, but this is one of our ways to challenge it,” Abir Kopty from the Popular Committee said.



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