Tuesday, October 22, 2002

BBC NEWS | World | Middle East | Palestinians 'forced to abandon village'
The last few families left the village of Yanun, near Nablus, on Friday, saying they had been regularly under attack from illegal hilltop outposts of the Itamar settlement 10 kilometres to the west.

The village mayor returned with several men at the weekend to maintain a presence and prevent settlers from taking it over.

Yanun is the first Palestinian community to be evacuated in recent years owing to alleged harassment by Jewish settlers.

'More difficult than death'

Reports say the village's stone houses are now locked and the small local school is deserted.

An electricity generator was found scorched by fire and three large water tanks tipped over and emptied.

"Our life is more bitter than hell," said 40-year-old father of six Kamal Sobih, who was one of the last to leave for the neighbouring village of Aqraba.

Residents said that masked settlers used to rampage through the village stealing sheep, throwing stones and beating them with fists and rifle butts.

Olive pickers and goatherds say they have been chased from nearby hillsides, and two weeks ago a man from Aqraba was shot dead in the olive groves.

"This was not a life," Mr Sobih added. "I left against my will. It is more difficult than death, but I would go to the desert so my son can sleep safely."