The village of Umm al-Ḥīrān is a Bedouin unrecognized village situated 8 km north east of the town of Ḥūrah, with about 500 inhabitants. In 1952 the lands of the Abo al-Qian tribe, located in the north-western part of the Negev, were seized for use by the Israeli army, and the inhabitants were moved to the Lahav forest, where they remained until 1956. The village was then displaced once more and the area was designated for the use of the State and the village was moved to its present location. It is named after the Ḥīrān Valley that passes near the village, as well as the adjacent Ḥīrān mountain. There are many caves which over the years have been dug in the village for use as homes and as storage.
In 2000, following a three years struggle, the inhabitants of Umm al-Ḥīrān obtained a connection to a water point about 8 km away from the village, which they were then able to use by constructing the infrastructure at their own costs. In 2010 the village was disconnected from the water, following a series of decisions, in 2008 and 2009, to decrease the water quotas the village was allowed. The inhabitants currently carry water in tanks from Ḥūrah, about 8 km away, at the price of 65 shekels per cubic meter. The Supreme Court has recently rejected the inhabitants’ appeal to be connected to the central water pipe to allow them to bring water to the village. The village is not connected to the national electricity grid, and the residents use expensive solar panels to obtain electricity.
There are no educational or health services in the village. To obtain these services the villagers are forced to travel to the Bedouin town of Ḥūrah, about 8 km away and 10 minutes ride. The children have transportation from the main road to Ḥūrah.
In 2003, the National Council for Planning and Building approved the founding of the Jewish settlement Hiran in place of the village of Umm al-Ḥīrān. In practice, the plan was to uproot the people of Umm al-Ḥīrān for the third time. The same year, residents of the village received deportation orders and by 2004, villagers began to receive demolition orders for their homes. In May 2015, after a long legal struggle, the Supreme Court denied the Umm al-Ḥīrān residents’ appeal to cancel eviction orders standing against them. According to this decision, the state can move the residents to Ḥūrah against their will and destroy the village.
In the meantime, the Jewish group ‘Garin Hiran’ awaits the establishment of the Hiran settlement. They currently reside in the former military camp ‘Yatir’ nearby. In November 2013 the government decided to start the construction of the Jewish settlement of Hiran within 60 days, anticipating its size to be in the order of 12,000 inhabitants. In August 2015, work to establish Hiran had started near the houses of Umm al-Ḥīrān. By 2017, the State began to actively transfer people from the village to the town of Ḥūrah. At first they were located in a temporary neighborhood and with the completion of the new neighborhoods of Ḥūrah (that can last up to 15 years) they will be relocated once more.
The residents of Umm al-Ḥīrān have ownership claims to land they had possessed in the northern Negev, from where they were removed during the 1950’s. The residents wish that the state recognize their village, whether as an independent agricultural settlement, as part of the Jewish settlement of Hiran (intended to be established on the village land), or as a settlement on their original land in the area of Kibutz Shoval.
On April 10, 2018, after lengthy negotiations that were interrupted and agreements that were changed, the State of Israel decided to transfer the people of the village by September 2018 to neighborhood number 12 in Ḥūrah.
The Events of January 2017
On January 18th, 2017, hundreds of policemen arrived at the village of Umm al-Ḥīrān before dawn, in order to demolish six structures. While the police stormed into the village, Ya’akub Abu Alqian, a local resident took his personal belongings, entered his car and started driving away since he did not want to witness his house being demolished. As he was driving away policemen shot live ammunition at him and killed him. After being shot, Ya’akub lost control over his car, which rolled down the hill and hit a policeman, killing him on the spot.
A new article by Haaretz reveals how a secret report by a Shin Bet officer who investigated the events of 2017 in Umm al-Ḥīrān, concluded that the police had failed in their handling of that operation.
Yaaqub Abu al-Qian, who was shot to death by police during that incident, was accused by the Chief of Police and the Minister of Public Security of terrorism and of intentionally killing the police officer, Erez Levy. The officer’s report, based on evidence gathered in the field, determined that Yaaqub Abu al-Qian did not intentionally ram over the police officer, but rather lost control of his car as a result of police misconduct. Although this report was submitted to the Ministry of Justice, State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, did not mention any of its’ findings in his recent statement, claiming evidence collected showed indications of either terrorist attack or an accident. Both the former head of the Ministry of Justice Police Investigation Unit, Uri Carmel, and Nitzan’s deputy for criminal affairs, Shlomo Lemberger, opposed Nitzan’s conclusions.
Furthermore, it was revealed that after Yaaqub Abu al-Qian was wounded by police, he was left to die without any medical care. A police physician present at the scene, claimed in her testimony that she had not seen the wounded body of Yaaqub Abu al-Qian before he died, and therefore did not give him any medical treatment- contradicting other testimonies from the field, which stated she intentionally ignored his need for receiving medical care. Nevertheless, the Ministry of Justice’s Investigation of Police Unit and the State Prosecutor Office did not question her testimony, even though Abu al-Qian did not die immediately, but rather bled to death.
The community and its supporters have said from the start that Gilad Erdan (Minister of Public Security) and Roni Alsheikh (Chief of Police) have blamed Yaaqub Abu al-Qian for being involved in a terrorist act prior to investigating, and even when it was clear they were fed false information, they never apologized or taken responsibility for their reckless and inciting statements.
*Other forms of writing: Umm al-Hiran, Um al-Hiran, Umm Alhiran, Umm al-Khiran, Umm Alkhiran