Dreaming of Paved Roads: The Unreported Daily Struggle of Masafer Yatta

Injured children in Masafer Yatta must be transferred on the back of a donkey due to the Israeli decision to confiscate the residents' vehicles. (Photo: Supplied)

By Fayha Shalash – Ramallah

Masafer Yatta is often in the news. Missing from the headlines, however, is the daily struggle of the residents of this once-peaceful Palestinian region. 

Issa Younis relies on his vehicle to move around Janaba, his small Bedouin village located in the Masafer Yatta area, south of Hebron, in the occupied West Bank.

For the locals, owning a four-wheel drive vehicle is extremely important, due to the lack of paved streets, itself an outcome of Israeli authorities’ prohibition on new roads.

However, due to the difficult economic conditions, not everybody has the financial ability to purchase such expensive vehicles.


On August 22, an Israeli military force came to Younis’ house. After examining his ID and driver’s license, the soldiers asked him to hand over the keys to his car.

“They broke into my house and asked me for the keys to the car,” Younis told The Palestine Chronicle. 

“I thought they wanted to check something in it. To my surprise, however, the soldiers drove it and took it away,” he added. 

“I shouted at them and tried to fight back. To no avail. They kept repeating that the vehicle had been confiscated,” explained Younes.

The official pretense used by Israeli authorities is that Younis was transporting workers who do not hold permits to enter Israel for work.

Younis’ family consists of eight members. All of them depend on this vehicle. Moreover, Issa often helped his neighbors by giving rides to their children or even carrying livestock on the bumpy roads.

“They prevent us from having a paved street. This is a dream for us. We only have bumpy dirt roads,” Younis said. 

“They claim that building streets is against the law, but we all know that their hidden goal is to force us to leave.”

In the last few weeks, several such vehicles were confiscated in the Bedouin communities across the Masafer Yatta area. 

Consequently, the residents were forced to turn to old methods of transportation. A farm tractor became the only available vehicle in the village. Children were brought to school on a cart pulled by the tractor. 

“They do everything in their power to deport us,” Younis said. 

“The settlers rule over us. They try to uproot us from our land, but we do not care. Our life here is still better than being without a homeland,” he added.

Our Open Wound

Masafer Yatta is home to 12 Palestinian villages, with a total population of about 2,900 residents. 

Last January, Israeli authorities announced plans to forcibly expel most of them – around 1,500 Palestinians living in eight of these communities. 

The area has been under threat since the Israeli Supreme Court authorized the eviction of Palestinian residents in May 2022, in a move condemned by the international community, including some of Israel’s allies. 

Illegal Jewish settlers are the major source of suffering for Palestinians living here. They have established several settlement outposts on stolen Palestinian lands and they have no plans to stop.

Fouad Al-Amor, coordinator of the Popular Committee in Masafer Yatta, follows up on all the violations committed by Israeli authorities and settlers in the area.

Al-Amor told The Palestine Chronicle that the confiscation of vehicles is just a new addition to the tragic situation that Israel is deliberately creating in order to force the residents to leave.

“A few days ago, a child was stung by a scorpion. We didn’t find a vehicle to take her to the hospital,” Al-Amor told us. 

“We made her ride on the back of a donkey to reach an ambulance,” he added.

The Israelis argue that the vehicles are employed to smuggle workers to Israel, but al-Amour told us that this is just a pretext, in fact, an outright lie.

In Masafer Yatta, Palestinians are prevented from building and they do not have access to water, electricity, and paved roads. 

No Water, No Schools 

Israeli bulldozers regularly demolish every steel structure they try to build. 

“They deny us water, so we resort to the wells that our ancestors had dug. However, the Israeli army shuts down the wells under the usual pretext of not having a permit,” Al-Amor added.

“Our children do not have proper schools, because they are all threatened with demolition. Students have to walk through rugged roads to reach their schools, constantly exposed to the possibility of being attacked by Israeli soldiers and settlers. Even cattle and shepherds are not spared from their harassment.”

To make matters worse, since 1999, Masafer Yatta has been declared a closed military area. The Israeli army regularly conducts military exercises in the area, forcing Palestinian residents to leave their homes for days at a time. 

“Life here is difficult, but we insist on staying. It is our land and the land of our fathers,” Al-Amour said. 

(The Palestine Chronicle)

– Fayha’ Shalash is a Ramallah-based Palestinian journalist. She graduated from Birzeit University in 2008 and she has been working as a reporter and broadcaster ever since. Her articles appeared in several online publications. She contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.

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