Hundreds of Palestinians in the south Hebron hills are living under the fear of imminent displacement because the Israeli army says it wants to conduct live-fire drills on their village lands.
Israel’s High Court of Justice on Wednesday will hear the case of eight Palestinian villages fighting looming demolition and displacement by the Israeli army in an area the military has designated a live-fire zone.
The area in question, Firing Zone 918, has become a flashpoint in ongoing Israeli attempts to push smaller, rural Palestinian communities off their land across the West Bank in the past several decades.
The story begins in the late 1970s, when the Israeli army declared “Firing Zone 918” on an area of approximately 30 square miles in the south Hebron Hills — home to 12 Palestinian villages — ostensibly for military training.
In October of 1999 the army expelled approximately 700 Palestinian residents of the villages, who had lived there in natural and man-made caves – some on a permanent basis, others only seasonally – long before Israel ever occupied the West Bank. The expulsion orders were handed out on the grounds of “illegal residence in a live-fire zone.” In 2000, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) secured an interim injunction in the Supreme Court, managing to halt the displacement, thus allowing the residents to return to their homes.
In 2002, villagers and the army entered court-ordered mediation, in which the army sought to relocate the Palestinian residents to a smaller area nearby. The Palestinian residents refused, however, and in 2005 the process ended without any result.
The situation has remained more or less stagnant ever since. The villagers continue to live in the area under constant threat of expulsion, while the IDF has been forbidden to train with live fire there or damage the residents’ fields, livestock or produce.
In 2012, after years without progress, the state decided to revive the case, while publishing the defense minister’s new position on the issue: the boundaries of the firing zone would be slightly reduced, leaving out four villages previously slated for demolition and displacement. Even under the new plan, however approximately 1,000 men, women, and children would be kicked out of their homes.
More than two years ago the Israeli Supreme Court ordered the army to re-enter mediation with the Palestinian residents of the firing zone. After the mediation broke down, however, authorities...Read More