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IDF destroys 20 Palestinian structures in West Bank 'firing zone'

The army exploits a break-down in a court-ordered mediation to demolish buildings in ‘Firing Zone 918.’ Israel has been trying to evict impoverished Palestinian communities from their lands for over 15 years — in order to save a few bucks on military trainings.

Israeli soldiers guard a bulldozer demolishing Palestinian structures in Khirbet Jenbah, which is part of what the army calls ‘Firing Zone 918,’ February 2, 2016. (Nasser Nawaj’ah/B’Tselem)

Israeli soldiers guard a bulldozer demolishing Palestinian structures in Khirbet Jenbah, which is part of what the army calls ‘Firing Zone 918,’ February 2, 2016. (Nasser Nawaj’ah/B’Tselem)

Israeli military forces demolished over 20 structures in the Palestinian villages of Khirbet Jenbah and Hawala Tuesday morning. In the early afternoon, Israel’s Supreme Court issued an interim injunction until a hearing can be held next week.

Some 1,000 Palestinians in eight villages live in what the Israeli army has declared ‘Firing Zone 918’ in the South Hebron Hills. Some 400 people, a large number of whom are children, live in the two villages targeted on Tuesday.

For over 15 years, the state has sought to evict the traditionally cave-dwelling Palestinian families from their homes and grazing lands inside the designated area. Jewish settlements within Firing Zone 918, however, have not been served with eviction orders.

Palestinian children play in the rubble left after the Israeli military demolished 24 Palestinian structures in Khirbet Jenbah, which is part of what the army calls ‘Firing Zone 918,’ February 2, 2016. (Nasser Nawaj’ah/B’Tselem)

Palestinian children play in the rubble left after the Israeli military demolished 24 Palestinian structures in Khirbet Jenbah, which is part of what the army calls ‘Firing Zone 918,’ February 2, 2016. (Nasser Nawaj’ah/B’Tselem)

More than two years ago the Israeli Supreme Court ordered the army to enter into mediation with the Palestinian residents of Firing Zone 918. The mediation recently broke down.

The army, it appears, was attempting to take advantage of the period between the breakdown and the matter returning to court, in order to demolish the homes.

The mediation was not the first attempt to resolve the issue of Firing Zone 918 out of court. In 2002, villagers and the state entered a previous round of mediation, in which the army sought to relocate the Palestinian residents to a smaller, nearby area. Residents refused, however, and in 2005 the process ended without any result.

In the 2013 High Court hearing, the state argued that Firing Zone 918 is of military necessity because it reduces logistical costs of training exercises due to its proximity to a nearby army base. Or in other words, to save a few bucks.

Lawyers representing the villagers, however, argued that international law clearly prohibits the expulsion of residents from an occupied territory, as well as the permanent seizure of land for military use.

A year later, however, a senior IDF officer admitted in a Knesset hearing that live-fire training areas are often used in order to displace Palestinian residents.

June 26, 2013 - The mosque in the village of Mufaqara, south of Hebron, an area within the military-designated Firing Zone 918, was demolished by the IDF in 2011. (photo: Matt Surrusco, +972 Magazine)

June 26, 2013 – The mosque in the village of Mufaqara, south of Hebron, an area within the military-designated Firing Zone 918, was demolished by the IDF in 2011. (photo: Matt Surrusco, +972 Magazine)

Firing Zone 918 has gained significant international attention in recent years, with Israeli and international writers urging Israel “to halt its displacement of the Palestinian villages located in Firing Zone 918.”

The international authors included: John le Carre, Michael Chabon, Dave Eggers, Ian McEwan, Nobel laureate Herta Müller and Philip Roth. (Read the full list here.)

“In a reality of ongoing occupation, of solid cynicism and meanness, each and every one of us bears the moral obligation to try and relieve the suffering, do something to bend back the occupation’s giant, cruel hand,” the Israeli authors wrote.

Similar campaigns have recently halted Israeli army efforts to displace impoverished Palestinian communities in the South Hebron Hills.

The U.S. State Department, most European Union foreign ministers, the United Nations and hundreds of activists all joined a wide public campaign to save the Palestinian village of Susya last year.

Following the public campaign, the Israeli army leaked documents indicating that the Palestinian villagers in Susya do indeed own the land on which their village sits, and the demolition threats quietly disappeared.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Felixio

      And people wonder why is a rise of anti-Semitism in the world this days???

      Reply to Comment
    2. Mara Cohen

      Couple of issues with the reportage. 1) You cite the Lands involved as Ancestral Lands. They are not. If any Land is Arab owned it is noted per the 1858 Ottoman Land Registration Act. 80% of the Land at that time was owned by the State, and still is.The State is no longer the Ottoman Sultanate, it is the State of Israel. Still at around 80%. Arabs have every right to own Land, and many do. Arabs, Bedouins, Druse, Jews however do not have the right to build on lands not in mulk status. The buildings get torn down. SOP. As the Jordanian Occupation was illegal under International Law(San Remo Accords, Treaty of Sevres, and the League of Nation’s Mandate for Palestine) the Deeds they gave out, especially on stolen Jewish owned property (provable under the Registration Act, and the British Peel Commission Records) mean worse than nothing, because the people who have been squatting on property they never legally owned, and the Crown of Jordan collected money for after ethnically cleansing Jews from it-well, it is harsh to say the least. But the one thing that is hugely notable in your reportage? You forget that Jews are Indigenous to this Land,and your attitudes are no different then any other conquering, colonizing peoples. Probably should try reporting facts, not overwrought rhetoric. Doesn’t do any good for anyone. And Felixio-the rise in anti-semitism is due to the inadequately factual reportage such as is in this Article.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Excuse me? “The State…is the State of Israel”? Israel annexed the West Bank? When did that happen? When did it change from being illegally occupied territory, with all the laws that pertain to the conduct of occupying troops of a foreign power, to “the State of Israel”? Oh, the arrogant assumptions the occupier makes without seemingly even being aware of it.

        Reply to Comment
      • TB7

        Everything one needs to know:

        9% of the Westbank (excluding Eeast Jerusalem) was “state land” was state land prior the occupation by the settler state, not “80%”.

        Under ottoman law one can acquire miri land, if it was cultivated for at least 10 years no matter how much of it is cultivated and how long it was cultivated after these 10 years.

        But Israel changed this to at least 50% cultivated and if cultivation stopped after this 10 years for some time it Irael changed the status to state land and classified as government property land what under Ottoman law was private Palestinian property.

        Israel also disregards the collective rights of Palestinian communities in grazing land under Ottoman law and declared these lands state land, too, allocating them to settlements which again breaches Ottoman law regarding grazing lands.

        Source: B’Tselem: Under the Guise of Legality: Declarations of state land in the West Bank
        http://www.btselem.org/publications/summaries/201203_under_the_guise_of_legality

        Please explain why the Jordanien occupation was illegal under international law, because of “San Remo Accords, Treaty of Serves and the the Mandate of Palestine”. San Remo Accords? Wtf! The Treaty of Serves was annulled and replaced by the Treaty of Lausanne and the Mandate of Palestine ended before Jordanians’s occupation which wasn not even a belligerent occupation like Israel’s is. The Jordanian annexation of the Westbank was never recognized, but not condemned in the Security Council contrary to the illegal annexation of Jerusalem and the Golan Hights by Israel which only declared statehood within the borders recommended in the partition plan.

        And the only Jews who were “indiginous” to the land were Jews who lived there in Ottoman times and became citizens of Palestine (including their descendants).

        Reply to Comment