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Hundreds of Palestinians displaced in Jordan Valley by IDF 'training exercises'

Dozens of Palestinian families in the Jordan Valley were displaced last week by huge military drills conducted by the Israeli army. The disruption, and damage left behind, are representative of the wider problems of dispossession and control experienced by Palestinians living in this part of the West Bank.

Israeli army tanks in the northern part of the Jordan Valley during extensive military drills in the area, May 4th. (Jordan Valley Solidarity)

Israeli army tanks in the northern part of the Jordan Valley during extensive military drills in the area, May 4th, 2015. (Jordan Valley Solidarity)

Hundreds of Palestinians in the Jordan Valley were last week displaced by “unprecedented” training exercises conducted by the Israeli army. The drills, which according to witnesses involved over 100 military vehicles, including helicopters, officially started on May 3; however, communities in the northern Jordan Valley had noticed an increase in the military presence in the area throughout the previous week.

The exercises were conducted by the Artillery Corps Support Unit 282, according to the Jerusalem Post, as part of preparations for a possible war with Hezbollah.

Local groups, such as Jordan Valley Solidarity (JVS), have been actively monitoring and recording the impact of the training exercises. JVS, a grassroots coalition of Palestinian community groups, notes that 47 families from the Hamra area were approached by the Israeli army on April 30 and forced to sign orders compelling them to leave their homes between May 4-7, in order for military drills involving live fire to be conducted.

Military training exercises also began in the Aqraba area of the Jordan Valley on May 3. JVS reported that none of the affected families had received prior warning of the drills, but rather noticed a military camp being set up near their homes.

These drills followed an earlier set of exercises in the same area of the Jordan Valley, carried out on April 28. Those exercises resulted in the destruction of 3,000-4,000 dunams of crops and trees, after ammunition shot by the Israeli army started fires on the land that Palestinian firefighters were prevented from reaching.

The displacement, firing of live ammunition, explosions and road closures that continued throughout last week in the army’s ‘training zone’ have gone largely unreported by the Israeli and international press. A volunteer with JVS, Maisie, confirms that appeals to the EU and the UN that the group launched last week have gone unanswered. While the heaviest part of the drills now seems to have died down, as during previous episodes the Israeli army has left behind scorched ground. Additionally, Maisie explains, their tanks and Jeeps have destroyed many roads leading to Palestinian communities in the area.

Israeli army tanks in the northern part of the Jordan Valley during extensive military drills in the area, May 4th. (Jordan Valley Solidarity)

Israeli army tanks in the northern part of the Jordan Valley during extensive military drills in the area, May 4th, 2015. (Jordan Valley Solidarity)

The disruption and destruction of last week are representative of the challenges facing the Jordan Valley’s Palestinian residents. The majority of the Jordan Valley (which makes up 30 percent of the occupied territories) is designated Area C, which is under full Israeli military and administrative control and therefore technically off-limits to Palestinians. Ninety-five percent of this area is under the control of Israeli settlements and regional councils, in addition to various areas being either ‘state lands’, closed military zones (including firing areas) or nature reserves.

In addition, villages located within the Area C territory of the Jordan Valley are vulnerable to demolition orders, and several communities undergo repeated demolitions. The matrix of control that illegal Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley exerts over Palestinian communities extends to water, with the majority of the Valley’s supply routed to these settlements – despite the fact that the natural sources are found under Palestinian land. This has gradually led to the destruction of the traditional agricultural livelihoods of the Jordan Valley’s native Palestinian communities.

Prevention of access to farmlands has also had a significant impact on Palestinian agricultural trade in the Jordan Valley. In particular, an area of around 5,000 dunams – located in the same region where last week’s military exercises took place – has been off-limits to Palestinians since 1969, yet is being farmed by Israeli settlers. The matter is currently in front of the High Court, following a petition by Palestinian families affected by the restriction.

Given the Israeli government’s overarching plans to annex the Jordan Valley, none of these issues are expected to receive any kind of a just resolution in the foreseeable future. The Israeli army’s training exercises, with all their attendant ruin, will also persist, and are likely to intensify. In May 2014, Col. Einav Shalev of the Central Command – the section of the Israeli army responsible for units in the West Bank – confirmed to a Knesset committee that such live fire military drills in Area C are aimed at driving Palestinians out. Between government policy and military activity, the ethnic cleansing of the Jordan Valley is set to continue.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Ricky Rocket

      The Palestinian people will disappear in few dozens years the same way it appeared 50 years ago.

      P.S.

      Once we all thought that there is an Iraqi people.

      Reply to Comment
      • David T.

        The Palestinians actually legally exist since the Treaty Of Lausanne (1924) on which the Palestinian Nationality law (1925) is based.

        Jews who had legally acquired citizenship until 1948 (about 33% of all Jews in Palestine) know this.

        What doesn’t exist until today is a Jewish citizenship which easily answers the question, if the artificial concept “Jewish state” is racist or not. Otherwise every citizen in Israel would be automatically Jewish as every citizen in Palestine automatically became Palestinian in 1925 despite of heritage or faith.

        Reply to Comment
    2. Weiss

      Nice work Natasha!

      This is what Ethnic Cleansing looks like…

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Well, yet another example of Israel treating Arab persons in a way that it would never ever treat Jewish persons. Its defenders keep saying it is not a racist state but its actions speak louder than words. (And frankly, increasingly these days its words speak loud and clear: those of Shaked, Ben-Dahan, Bennet, Birthright tour guides, Justice Rubinstein rejecting the residents of Umm al-Hiran…) And it does appear the new government is hell bent on annexation and transfer. The mask is off. We’ve got frank population transfer at Susya. We’ve got the same at Hiran. Now this. All in the style of Bennet and Shaked. No apologies. The fascists are on the march! Literally!

        Reply to Comment
        • David T.

          To turn zones into military zones to expell Gentiles and Judaize the area afterwards has been an intermediary step since 1948. It’s Zionism 101. The same enclave and permit system existed in Israel where Palestians had to live under military law until 1966. It’s no coincidence that this changed right before Israel’s conquest in 1967. Its Apartheid character (EVERY Arab in historic Palestine living under miliary law) would have been too obvious.

          Reply to Comment
    3. Yeah, Right

      “The exercises were conducted by the Artillery Corps Support Unit 282, according to the Jerusalem Post, as part of preparations for a possible war with Hezbollah.”

      So, let me get this right: the IDF is preparing for a war in Lebanon (which is to the North) by means of military exercises conducted inside the West Bank (which is to the East)?

      Pardon me, but that does appear to contradict the Hague Regulations, which only allows for requisition for the immediate needs of the army of occupation.

      Think about it.
      Think about it.
      Think about it.

      Lebanon is North. The West Bank is East. A big chunk of Israel sits in between. There is therefore no immediate need for the army of occupation (which is squatting down in the east, remember) to conduct its military training for a war that is being planned in the north by “exercising” in the east.

      By all means Israel can “exercise” its army. Go for it. But do it in the North.

      You know, inside **Israeli** territory.

      But Israel is not entitled to do it in the West Bank, since that isn’t Israeli territory.

      It is, indeed, merely territory in which Israel’s sad rabble of an army is sitting its Big Fat Arse on.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Bar

      Jordan Valley is in Area C.

      Reply to Comment
      • susy

        So what? The Oslo Agreement was an interim agreement.

        Reply to Comment
        • Bar

          Oslo still governs relations between Israel and the Palestinian who aren’t Hamas.

          Reply to Comment
      • Yeah, Right

        Bar: “Jordan Valley is in Area C.”

        A statement that means nothing more – and no less – than this: under the Oslo Accords the exercise of authority within Area C remained within the purview of the IDF in its role as the occupying power.

        Big Deal.

        An occupying power is an occupying power is an occupying power.

        And an occupying power can only exercise its authority within the constraints placed upon it by international humanitarian law, precisely because that authority derives from international humanitarian law.

        And…. an occupying power is not entitled to requisition land or goods nor to dispossess or displace protected persons merely because it is “easier” to conduct military exercises inside this occupied territory rather than inside its own territory.

        These military exercises are being conducted as training for an eventual IDF assault on Hezbollah, and it is beyond ludicrous to argue that the IDF *must* do this in the West Bank when Israel itself is interposed between Lebanon (i.e. where Hezbollah is) and these “exercises”.

        Israel should not conduct these “exercises” anywhere within this occupied territory, precisely because these “exercises” have absolutely nothing to do with the exercise of authority by the occupying power.

        The West Bank is not the IDF’s playground, Bar.

        And the Oslo Accords did not and can not grant to the IDF the role of Official Playground Bully.

        Reply to Comment
    5. Felixio

      Where did humanity went to??

      Reply to Comment
      • Richard Cranium

        You sound like a very educated, articulate person. Lol

        Reply to Comment