Since 1967, the occupation has been paying more attention to the Northern Valleys for the fertility of their soil and for having the most important water basin in Palestine. The occupation's attempts to seize them have not stopped. The occupation has already seized 88% of their area, still chases down the Palestinian landowners, and corners them to push them into immigration in order to take control over the rest of the land.
The Valleys cover 30% of the West Bank, with a total area of 720.000 donums which begin in Bisan all to Safed in the north of 1948 occupied Palestine. They are stretched along Ein Gedi area to Negev in the south, and from the middle of the Jordan River in the west to the eastern slopes of the West Bank.
According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the population of the valleys reached 62,854 in 2020. The valleys are characterized for their warm atmosphere that is suitable for cultivation all year long, the fertility of their soil, the presence of the largest water basin, and the production of 60% of vegetables. In fact, the valleys constitute 50% of the agricultural lands of the West Bank.
Division of the Valleys
According to the Oslo Accords between the Palestinian Authority and the occupation in 1993, the Valleys are divided into three areas: The first under the control of the PA, with an area of 85 km2 (i.e. 7.4% of the total area). The second area is shared between the PA and the occupation, with an area of 50 km2 (i.e. 4.3%). The largest part (i.e. 88.3%) is under the occupation's rule.
After the outbreak of the Al-Aqsa Intifada in 2000, the occupation forces isolated the Valleys from the West Bank to obstruct the Palestinian farmers and workers from reaching them.
After the Naksa in 1967, the occupation started displacing landowners from their lands and homes systematically; successfully displacing 50,000 Palestinians until this day. It continued the partial and complete demolition of residential areas under the pretext of establishing closed military zones to facilitate the control over the valleys' lands. This is what happened with the people of Khirbet Al-Hadidiya, Al-Ras Al-Ahmar, Atouf and Farisiyah.
Khirbet Humsa Al-Fawqa was the last Palestinian community to be demolished by the 'Israeli' bulldozers. However, its people insist on staying in their lands and rebuilding their homes and tents.
Abdallah Abu Rahma, Director General at the Colonization and Wall Resistance Commission, uncovered a systematic 'Israeli' scheme to execute the annexation plan through restricting the Palestinians in order to seize their lands and turn them into settlements. Abu Rahma said that the settlers use the lands to build farms, herd their livestock and steal the natural resources.
Abu Rahma warned against the possible evacuation of Palestinians from Khirbet Humsa al-Fawqa, Khirbet Makhoul, Khirbet Al-Hadidiya and Al-Buqi’a Plain, because this would leave the triangle area (i.e. 200,000 donums) empty of Palestinians. The people will be displaced to Ein Shibli and An-Nasiriyah village, which are surrounded by settlers and where Palestinians are threatened to be displaced.
In 2021, the occupation took more abusive actions in the Valleys. It uprooted thousands of trees, especially in the Einun natural reserve in east of Tubas where about 10,000 forest trees and 300 olive trees were uprooted. The occupation also deliberately sprayed uprooted lands with pesticides to prevent their re-cultivation, and to facilitate the establishment of new settlement posts. There are 36 settlements, most of which are agricultural, that split the Valleys apart.
Furthermore, the occupation steals Palestinian resources for the settlers and deliberately sets up barriers at the entry points of the Valleys to control people's movement from and to the West Bank thereby preventing the access of the Valley's goods to Palestinian markets. The occupation also reduces the time periods given to the farmers for the cultivation of their lands, which causes them huge economic losses and deprives the Palestinians in the West Bank from the basic food sources.
Struggle over Vital Life Resource
The Valleys are known for their groundwater wells and springs, which are the main source of water in the entire area, and are, therefore, targeted by the occupation. The wells need repairs to produce sufficient water, but the occupation impedes this process by digging deep wells which prevent the side feeding Palestinian wells from accessing them as the water flows in the direction of the deeper 'Israeli' wells.
Moataz Bisharat, head of the Jordan Valley file in Tubas governorate, says that the Valleys suffer from water shortages as the occupation constantly destroys the water networks that feed the inhabitants' houses. In fact, it digs artesian wells and sells water to the population at high prices, reaching 32 shekels per cup.
Mekorot, 'Israeli' water company, controls nearly 85% of the Valleys' water located in the largest eastern water basin in Palestine.
The remaining 15% of Palestinian water sources are underutilized. Palestinians face the 'Israeli' company Mekorot, which controls all water sources and supplies them to settlers, who consume water eight times the people of the Northern Valleys do.
Bisharat points that the amount of water citizens receive hardly suffices 25% of their daily needs, excluding their farms and livestock. This insufficient water forces the citizens to buy water tanks from the 'Israeli' company. Bisharat warned that this continued crisis means that most people are deprived from their sole source of income, i.e. agriculture.
Bisharat explains that the occupation refuses to grant Palestinian citizens the necessary permits to dig water wells, while the 'Israeli' company Mekorot continuously digs wells in the area to supply settlements with water.
The Palestinians in the Valleys fear that nothing would change and they would still be displaced, and their sources and waters will be stolen as the international community stands silent and the occupation continues to violate Palestinians' rights. Nevertheless, the Palestinian people resist the occupation with their steadfastness and clinging to their lands regardless the restrictions the occupation imposes on them.