The Palestinian Valley – As is his family's habit of maintaining it despite the change of circumstances, we received the Palestinian Radhi Muhammad Faqha, the mukhtar of Khirbet "Ain al-Hamma" in the northern Jordan Valley, in a guest space furnished with an old rug and a bitter coffee stove in the middle. "My father's guesthouse used to accommodate hundreds of guests, but the occupation restricted our homes," he said.

Al-Mukhtar, nicknamed "Abu Mahyoub", refers to the state of his village after Israel occupied the West Bank in the 1967 war and took full control of it, including the Jordan Valley (in the eastern foothills of the West Bank) and Khirbet al-Hamma (Khirbet al-Hamma).

Abu Mahyoub says, narrating the reality of life in Khirbet to Al Jazeera Net, "What we are living today is what was with the beginning of the occupation, abuse and intimidation to force us to leave."

Mukhtar Khirbet "Al-Hamma" jurisprudence tells memories of the fall of his region in the 1967 war and the occupation of the Palestinian Jordan Valley (Al-Jazeera)

Scenes from the "setback"

Abu Mahyoub, 77, remembers well the day that later became known as the "setback" (the day the West Bank fell to the occupation), when he and his family woke up to the sound of occupation patrols roaming the streets of the area and stationed on the border, pointing from his council to the area opposite his Palestinian village where Jordanian land is clearly visible.

This scene is accompanied in his memory by the sounds of gunfire, explosions, and soldiers shouting, "Rokhwa at Khasin. At Khasin" (go to Hussein, and they mean the king of Jordan at the time) to intimidate the population and push them to emigrate to Jordan. "Most of the families were displaced to the other side of the border, and my family too, I am the only one who did not cross this border, I stayed on the mountain guarding the cattle," he says boasting.

A few days ago, his one-year-old grandson, Adam, was suffocated after Israeli soldiers stormed the village to protect the settlers and fired a heavy barrage of tear gas canisters.

Israel destroyed 42 communities in the Jordan Valley in '67

Khirbet al-Hamma, named for its large number of hot springs, is one of 42 communities destroyed by Israel immediately after its occupation of the Jordan Valley in the 1967 war, some of which were rebuilt by residents and others completely erased. The only house that was not demolished in Hamma at the time was that of Abu Mahyoub's father, because he was the fastest to return to it, and his family did not complete a week of their displacement to Jordan.

Like the Fiqha family, eight other families out of a hundred who had lived in Khirbet returned, but lived in caves for fear of reprisals by the occupation. After the situation stabilized, they returned to their land, and their houses had been razed to the ground, so they rebuilt them and revived the village, which had been turned into a small ruin.

The return of the families was not free, as many of them paid the price with the blood of their children, as the mukhtar says, "the easiest decision they had was to kill" and points to a location meters away from the place to receive guests, where the occupation soldiers killed 3 young men after they returned to Hamma.

Yusuf Ali, Aqab Suleiman and Theeb Mahmoud, all of whom were trying to transport wheat from their homes before demolishing it for their families who took refuge in caves in the mountains after returning from Jordan, still remember their names.

The Jordan Valley from the house of jurisprudence and on the opposite side the agricultural settlements established by the occupation on confiscated Palestinian land (Al-Jazeera)

"So that he does not die as a refugee"

Sahar al-Qassim, the wife of al-Mukhtar, 75, whose family was also one of the returnees after 45 days of displacement, said, "My father was afraid that he would die as a refugee in exile so he decided to return despite the killing and destruction here."

On the day of the displacement, Sahar and her family crossed the border on foot under the whizz of bullets fired by the occupation soldiers at anyone suspected of being close to him, as in the case of the woman who was killed in front of her while carrying aluminum "dough committees", the lights of an Israeli military patrol were reflected, so they shot her and she was left on the ground, "and no one stopped to look behind him for fear of being killed."

Al-Qasim's family hid in the mountain, and the sounds of gunfire and the screams of the youths they were collecting and executing were not far away. "We lived real days of terror," she said.

About a month later, the Israeli occupation forces announced through loudspeakers that the residents would be allowed to return to their village. The process of counting them began. In those days, "everything changed," according to Mwatana, and families were divided between those who returned to Khirbet and were counted and registered as "citizens" and those who were classified as "displaced" outside the West Bank and were not allowed to return to Palestine as citizens until now, including her sister, who remained with her grandmother in Jordan.

Sahar recalls the beginning of the occupation and the emergency measures it imposed and tried to prove its existence by force, during which all residents were prevented from moving for days, and anyone who violated the instructions was shot. "The situation has changed, we are living under occupation with soldiers' guns pointed at our heads," she said.

Demolition and prosecution

After years of fear experienced by the residents, the situation began to calm down a little in Khirbet al-Hamma, as well as in other areas of the Jordan Valley, where Radi Fiqha (Abu Mahyoub) married and expanded his house by adding a new brick building with the permission of the occupying power.

In 1981, Israel began building settlements in the Jordan Valley, including Mikhola, which confiscated dozens of dunums of al-Hamma and began a new phase of restrictions on the population.

In the same year, the occupation demolished Fiqha New House (expansion) and then re-demolished it in 1986 and then in 2020, and each time the family tried to add simple rooms of tin-roofed bricks "Zinko" to expand their old mud housing and meet the same fate.

Today, Israel threatens dozens of shantytowns in Hamma with demolition, according to settlement researcher and Jordan Valley activist Aref Daraghmeh.

Daraghmeh explains in his interview with Al Jazeera Net that the demolition "is one of the means of restricting the population and forcing them to leave," especially during the last ten years, where the occupation tightened the noose on the area significantly.

The house of the Al-Fiqh family, which stands as a stumbling block to settlement expansion in the "Al-Hamma" area (Al-Jazeera)

Recently, the occupation closed the western side of Khirbet by declaring it a military zone to which entry is prohibited. From the south, he built a settlement outpost, and the population of al-Hamma, who now numbers only 250 Palestinians, has confined only 7 percent of their land confiscated for military purposes under the pretext that it is considered nature reserves and archaeological sites.

All of this land was later leaked to the settlers, and they set up small outposts in preparation for turning them into settlements. But what obstructs their plans and stands in the way of them so far is the mud house of Abu Mahyoub, the only witness to the Palestinian presence before 1967 in this area.