- Title: Palestinian community lives primitive life in hillside caves
- Date: 28th August 2019
- Summary: SAMO', WEST BANK (RECENT) (REUTERS) WOMAN, UM ANEES, ENTERING CAVE AND SITTING DOWN TO CLEAN DISHES UM ANEES CLEANING DISHES NEAR YATTA, WEST BANK (RECENT) (REUTERS) RABAA' HAMAMDEH TIDYING UP CAVE / CHILD SITTING ON FLOOR HAMAMDEH COVERING CLOTHES AND BELONGINGS WITH SHEET CHILD LOOKING AT CAMERA (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) 67-YEAR-OLD WOMAN, RABAA' HAMAMDEH, SAYING: "We don't have another option, this is our land. We have been living here since we were born. Our grandfathers were living here, also our fathers. Our mothers gave birth here. I also gave birth to all my children here in this cave." HAMAMDEH BRUSHING GRANDDAUGHTER'S HAIR HAMAMDEH COUPLE WITH THEIR GRANDCHILDREN INSIDE CAVE (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) 75-YEAR-OLD MAN, HUSSEIN HAMAMDEH, SAYING: "We suffer because of the settlers. When we want to put a cover outside the cave to protect ourselves from the water, they demolish it. When we put a tent, they take it, the settlers come with the army and take the tent." SPIDER WEB ON WALL IN CAVE CHILD STANDING AT ENTRANCE OF CAVE LAUNDRY ON CLOTHES LINE OUTSIDE CAVE HORSES AND CAMEL NEAR TENTS AND CARAVANS CAVES, CARAVANS AND HOUSES SAMO', WEST BANK (RECENT) (REUTERS) GIRL ENTERING CAVE MEN SITTING INSIDE CAVE CHILD SWEEPING FLOOR 30 YEAR OLD MAN, SANAD HAWAMDEH, SITTING WITH FAMILY INSIDE CAVE (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) 30-YEAR OLD MAN, SANAD HAWAMDEH, SAYING: "They (municipal authorities) extended the electricity lines to us, no more than a week or ten days later, the Jews cut the wires so we won't have electricity and so that we stay here underground without electricity. We are not allowed to build, if someone builds a room above the ground, they immediately report it and demolish the room. They harass us, they don't want this area to become a bit modernised or for people to live in it. " NEAR YATTA, WEST BANK (RECENT) (REUTERS) WOMAN, UM ANEES MAKING TEA INSIDE CAVE WATER BOILING CEILING OF THE CAVE / FAMILY OF 54-YEAR-OLD MAN, NOUMAN HAMAMDEH, SITING INSIDE CAVE (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) 54-YEAR-OLD MAN, NOUMAN HAMAMDEH, SAYING: "If we leave here, we lose everything. No one cares about this area, the government doesn't care either. It is marginalised. All of our lands are here, if I leave I will be a refugee. I don't want to be a refugee." DUCKS AT FARM WOMAN HOLDING SHEEP SHEEP EATING SHEEP NEAR FENCE BETWEEN THE AREA AND JEWISH SETTLEMENT SHEEP GRAZING NEAR FENCE HOUSES IN JEWISH SETTLEMENT CALLED, SHANI-LIVNE SHEEP / SETTLEMENT IN BACKGROUND CHILD RUNNING VARIOUS OF CHILDREN WALKING TOGETHER PATH TO CAVES
- Embargoed: 11th September 2019 13:55
- Keywords: Palestinians living in caves Palestinians in Yatta Palestinians in caves Israel-Palestinian conflict
- Location: NEAR YATTA AND SAMO', WEST BANK
- City: NEAR YATTA AND SAMO', WEST BANK
- Country: Palestinian Territories
- Topics: Society/Social Issues
- Reuters ID: LVA001AU4V9ZP
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: For Palestinian, Hussein Hamamdeh, home does not have the classical four-wall structure, instead he lives deep inside a cave in the side of a West Bank hill.
Without electricity or running water, the Hamamdeh family lives a primitive life, not too different than that lead by their forefathers who first settled in the caves near the Palestinian town of Yatta more than a century ago.
Much like their ancestors, who turned the caves into their homes during the Ottoman era, the inhabitants of these caves today still rely on water collected from nearby wells and burn wood to keep warm.
The caves are in Area C, which under the 1993 Oslo interim peace accords is fully controlled by Israel.
The cave-dwellers eke out a living farming and herding sheep in the rocky hills.
The children go to school in Yatta, the nearest Palestinian town.
The difficult living conditions of the Hamamdeh's and the other families living in dozens of caves in the area are aggravated by Israeli restrictions on construction.
Rooms built above the ground are demolished and tents built outside the cave are taken away, the cave-dwellers say.
Electricity lines once extended to the area, have been brought down, said Sanad Hawamdeh, who believes Israel does not want the area to become "modernised".
The Civil Administration that controls the area told Reuters in a statement that everyone residing in Area C can lawfully apply for building permits.
"Each and every application is reviewed on the merits and is approved pursuant to established criteria and procedures," the statement added.
According to a report by B'tselem, Israeli authorities reject most requests of construction.
Just a hundred yards from where they live is the nearby Israeli settlement of Shani-Livni, with the two communities isolated from one another with a barbed-wire fence.
Yet even with the harsh living conditions and restrictions, it is hard for Nouman Hamamdeh to imagine leaving.
"If I leave I will be a refugee. I don't want to be a refugee," he said.
There are no statistics on the number of caves spread in the mountains of the West Bank but many are located in Area C.
A typical cave is 60-metres deep, with an opening carved from stone.
The caves are divided into three areas: a living space, a storage area and a kitchen.
Residents of the caves sleep on blankets and mattresses on the rocky floor.
(Production: Roleen Tafakji/Yusri Al-Jamal/Mamoun Wazwaz/Lara Afghani)
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