Israeli Settlement Expansion in South Hebron Hills Continues Unabated
From Christian Peacemaker Teams and Operation Dove
At a time when the international community is calling for a freeze on new building in settlements and the disbanding of settlement outposts, the settler community of the South Hebron Hills is continuing its expansion unabated.
Israeli settlers from the illegal settlement on Ma’on, in the South Hebron Hills area, are constructing at least five new caravans on the south-west side of the settlement. Internationals based in the nearby Palestinian village of At Tuwani first observed building preparatory work in Ma’on a few days ago. Today, as the new caravans were being built, settlers began preparatory work on a nearby hilltop for further settlement expansion.
Over the past three months, internationals have also observed settlers constructing numerous new buildings in the nearby illegal Israeli outposts of Havat Ma’on (Hill 833) and Avigail.
Since its establishment in 1981, Ma’on settlement has been a source of violence towards local Palestinians. The agricultural orchards of Ma’on are cultivated on private land belonging to a family from the nearby Palestinian village of At Tuwani. By 1997, ongoing settler violence forced the Palestinian inhabitants of three nearby villages (Sarura, Humra and Kharoubeh) to abandon their homes.
The original outpost of Havat Ma’on was established in July 1999, but was dismantled in September of that year by the Israeli military. The following year, the outpost was re-established on a nearby hilltop, Hill 833, and has remained and grown since then. Avigail outpost was established in 2001.
Settlers from Ma’on and Havat Ma’on attack and harass Palestinian children from Tuba and Maghayir al Abeed traveling to and from school in At Tuwani. In 2004, following two attacks on internationals accompanying the children, the Israeli Knesset Committee for Children’s Rights affirmed the need for a military escort for the school children. The escort continues five years later. Settlers from Avigail and Havat Ma’on outposts also regularly attack Palestinian shepherds grazing their sheep.