Palestinians Abandon Village
By Mohammed Daraghmeh
Saturday, AP, October 19, 2002
YANUN, West Bank -- Sobbing as they filled a truck with furniture and piled
themselves into dusty cars, six Palestinian families set out from this tiny
village of old stone houses, leaving it completely abandoned.
Members of the Sobih clan said they were fleeing the village - once home to
25 families - after four years of worsening attacks by Jewish settlers, who
have set up illegal outposts on nearby hilltops. The attacks have become
increasingly frequent in recent months, they said. "Our life here is more
bitter than hell," Kamal Sobih, a thin, bearded man of 40, said Friday.
Groups of masked Jewish settlers have charged into the village, coming at
night with dogs and horses, stealing sheep, hurling stones through windows
and beating the men with fists and rifle butts, Palestinian residents said.
An electricity generator has been scorched by fire, knocking out power to
the village. Three large water tanks were tipped over and emptied.
Palestinians complain bitterly of land lost over the past decades of Mideast
conflict. The exodus from Yanun is believed to be the first time in recent
years that Palestinians have abandoned an entire village because of the
conflict. Confrontations between Jewish settlers and Palestinians often fall
into a murky legal area, with the Israeli army, the police and the
military's civil administration in the territories all being involved. An
Israeli army spokesman, who insisted his name not be used, said soldiers try
to prevent conflict between settlers and Palestinians, but that forces are
primarily in the area to protect Israelis from attacks by Palestinian
Spokesmen for the police and the civil administration could not be reached
Friday evening, the beginning of the Jewish sabbath. Phone calls to the
Settler's Council, an umbrella group for the settlers, also went unanswered
Friday. The nearby Jewish settlement of Itamar, about six miles west, was
attacked by a Palestinian gunman June 20. Five Israelis were killed and
eight were injured before the gunman was shot dead. The residents of Yanun
have not been linked to that attack or other violence.
More than 200,000 Jews live in about 150 settlements in the West Bank and
Gaza Strip - lands that are home to 3 million Palestinians, who hope to
establish a state on the territory Israel conquered in the 1967 Mideast War.
Most settlements have been built with the approval of Israel's government,
though the practice has been widely criticized internationally. In addition,
some settlers have set up new outposts without government approval, putting
up trailer homes and makeshift structures in the hope they eventually will
get government authorization.
Yanun is an isolated valley hamlet flanked by two illegal outposts on nearby
hilltops. The nearest settlement approved by the Israeli government is
In Yanun, the men cried as they got into two cars to leave for the larger
nearby village of Aqraba, where they believe there will be safety in
numbers. They will live with relatives there or move into rented apartments.
"Death would be easier than leaving," Kamal Sobih said, describing his
attachment to the land where generations of his family have lived. "But
there is no choice." He said he often spent nights keeping watch for
attackers from his windows.
Ahmed Sobih, an elderly man, sat in the back seat of one car, an Arab head
scarf covering his right eye. He said he lost sight in the eye after a
beating by an Israeli settler. He was tending sheep on the hillside when a
stranger approached. Sobih, mistaking the man for someone from a neighboring
Arab village, went to shake hands with the man and offer him a cigarette but
he instead was beaten with his own walking stick, he said.
As they packed up, two children led sheep out of the village. The village
chief, Abdelatif Sobih, was the last to go, packing up his rickety
Volkswagen Beetle. He said he has been attacked seven times and his wife,
Raideh, threatened to leave him if they did not abandon the place. "I kept
urging the people not to leave, but they did, one by one," he said, crying.
"They left me without a choice. I'm blaming my people as well (as the
settlers) because they left me alone."
He drove off, leaving the village empty. They left behind almost nothing.
Three old tires lay in front of a house. Some sheep munched grass nearby -
the owner of the flock plans to come back for them in coming days, the
departing resident said. They also leave behind hundreds of valuable olive
In Aqraba, a bumpy 10-minute drive down a winding road, Abdelatif Sobih and
his family unpacked their belongings on the porch of his brother's old
house, a cramped building in disrepair. One of his children, Bara, 6,
carefully took from the car a homemade bird cage sheltering two small
charcoal-colored birds and carried it into the new home.