'A rifle bullet standing on the gas stove'

Blog by The Villages Group
The rifle bullet. PHOTO: The Villages Group

Yair, on behalf of The Villages Group, writes:

On Wednesday [25 Oct '23], D. recorded some WhatsApp messages for Erella. Soldiers came, entered the cave. Taftish - that's the magic word – a search.

D. lives in a cave somewhat distant from the houses of Tuba village, just she and her widowed mother and another younger brother. This distance from the village makes it easy for settlers and soldiers to harass them on a daily basis with false searches intended to destroy, intimidate and threaten, break her until she leaves. In the evening four soldiers arrived, D. thinks. But perhaps they were settlers dressed as soldiers. It's become hard to tell between the two lately. The entire contents of the cupboards got strewn on the ground. Everything in the fridge – flour, rice and oil, everything found itself on the floor.

In the morning D.l discovered that the settlers / soldiers stole 2,000 NIS from her. All of her savings. We wanted to visit them, but decided to go to M. first, at Umm Barid. (These incidents are happening faster than our visits).

Umm Barid is some way from Shi'eb-Al-Butum. Like most of the villages in the south Mt. Hebron too has been under a partial siege. The army situated giant boulders at the entrance to the village. We enter via a bypass track, only M. and his family.

We first met M. at his neighbor, Abu Hani (Erella wrote about him on October 15, 2023). The latter's house was also isolated at some distance from Umm Barid. Settlers from the outpost Avigail erased it from the face of the earth, as well as Abu Hani's fruit tree grove. M. was their next target. His home was attacked yesterday several times. He too, as well as his son Mu, were [sic] hospitalized in Yatta.

His eldest son. Sh. (29-years-old) walked out to meet us and led us via a bypass track. Getting close to their house we noticed on the opposite hill, closer to Avigail, some few hundred meters away, an outpost with a large tent and kitchen. Next to it – a vehicle. According to F. (another son of M.) it was erected 3 days ago. Someone there was standing and observing us.

In spite of the demolitions, uprooting and incineration, one could still be impressed by the love and industry invested in this home, with its vegetable greenhouses, garden and several olive and almond trees. Now everything has been destroyed and burned.

M.'s wife, L. was waiting for us there – an impressive, hearty woman who shows no signs of anger or bitterness in spite of everything she has been through. Her husband M. joined us later, having lodged a complaint with the Yatta Palestinian police (the occupation police wouldn't accept his complaint). His back hurts from the beatings he sustained and he is limited in his movement. He showed us photos of his son Mu. Whose arm is in cast, lying in hospital. He does not show any despair either.

This is what we were told by L.: Tuesday afternoon she and M., Sh. and his 4 children, son Mu. and his wife F. (who have children too but they were not there), and 13-year-old daughter F. were at home. At 3 p.m. five settlers showed up, broke windows and the house door, smashed the solar panels, punctured and emptied the water tanks. They took everyone under armed threats to the greenhouse, somewhat distant from the house, seated them with their hands behind their backs like prisoners, cursing them as daughters of bitches etc. They beat up Mu. While cursing him "You are Hamas, get out of here!"

Half an hour later they left.

Sh.'s 4-year-old son wet his pants from sheer fright. When the settlers left, Sh. took his whole family and evacuated them to their relatives in Yatta. Good for them, because shortly thereafter the settlers were back, this time a larger group in two vehicles, one of them white and large like the army's. Once again curses, "questioning" M. claiming that he is Hamas. And that he invades ground that is not really owned by him. Thus, claimed settlers of a 3-day-old outpost!

Again, they took the women under armed threat to the greenhouse, grabbed their cell phones, seated them with their hands behind their backs, and forbade them to turn their heads and look at the house. At the same time their buddies scattered the flour, sugar, oil and everything else on the kitchen floor, and emptied the water tank over it all.

One of the settlers stepped on M.'s neck, the other beat him with his rifle butt at the back: "You're Hamas!" again and again.  M.'s son was beaten hard with a metal rod and his shoulder was fractured. They were both taken to the Yatta hospital. M. was released with bruises in his back. Mu. Remained for continued treatment.

This second "visit" lasted 2 hours. When L. described it, Erella needed a dictionary for the word "pogrom". Mazbaha in Arabic, from the root zabah which means 'slaughter'.

This time the destruction was thorough. The settlers broke the windows and the door lock so that it could no longer be locked. They locked another room and took away the key. They cut the electrical wires and broke the solar panels. They took 4 generators and two water pumps from the water hole. Finally, they trashed the old Peugeot pickup truck he uses for his work – cut the tires, opened the engine and took away the battery.

Before they left, they threatened M. that if he summons the police or the Civil Administration he and his family will be finished off. After they left, L. found a rifle bullet standing on the gas stove of the kitchen, as a blatant threat.

That night the family did not dare sleep at home and stayed with neighbors in the village. At night the settlers arrived yet again, ruined the latrine and the hot water device.

We brought them flour, rice, oil, potatoes, tuna, tomatoes and wafers for the children. We remained there for a few hours. L. insisted on preparing food for us. Occasionally I came out to watch the outpost, overlooking them at such close quarters. Every time an ATV or 'mule' came out of it, I waited to see whether they were headed towards us. Frightening indeed.

M. said they didn't spend this night at home either.

I took photos of the house and the vegetable patch, thinking that even the remains of this home might be totally demolished, just like Abu Hani's. 

On our way home we held on to the strong impression left by L., M. and their sons. How, after everything they had been through, they manage not to hate, not to feel like victims, and stay connected to their heart.