In al-Walaja village, west Bethlehem, people live in conditions evoking the Nakba (catastrophe) of 1948 that saw the ethnic cleansing of most of Palestine. Their existence is denied by Occupation Forces who continuously demolish houses and use force to expel Palestinians from their land and property.
The recent acts of destruction were carried out by Occupation Soldiers on the house of Haleema Abu Rizq, located in the Ein al Jawza area of the village. A large contingent of Occupation Forces attacked the area with bulldozers, declaring the property to be a âclosed military zoneâ. The house is a two-story building of around 150 square meters. Haleema lives on the second floor with her sonâs family including her grandchildren. Two of Eliasâ brothers have seen their properties destroyed in a similar fashion by the Occupation.
***image4***Palestinian property and houses are frequently destroyed under the pretext of not having necessary building permits. In this village 25 houses have been demolished in recent years along with 12 farms. After 1967 the Occupation illegally annexed the Ein al Jawza area (2500 dunums of land) of Walaja into Jerusalemâs âmunicipality bordersâ. Since the 1980s Palestinians in the area found themselves the constant target of attacks to remove them from the land. Despite the transfer of their land, villagers never received Jersualem âresidentâ ID cards. This factor is also used by the Occupation in the bid to drive Palestinians from the lands and homes.
Forty families live in continued misery without basic services such as electricity and water. On a daily basis, soldiers harass villagers and tell them to leave the area. They have even ordered the villagers of the area to demolish their own houses or otherwise face the Occupation bulldozers.
Moreover, a fresh wave of land confiscation has hit this area of west Bethlehem in recent years due to the construction of the Apartheid Wall for the expansion of the Gush Etzion settlement bloc. Villages are squeezed between two Walls, one that runs close to the Green line to the west and another to the east which runs around (and into) the city of Bethlehem. A total of 71,000 dunums of land are taken throughout the Bethlehem district, enabling Gush Etzion bloc to expand by 40% on the stolen lands.
Encircled by settlements and Walls, this part of Palestine is being shaped into a hellish ghetto. Nevertheless villagers in Walaja and throughout the region remain steadfast to their land and have declared their intention to continue to challenge the brutality and violence of the Occupation.