Israel’s Defense Ministry has ordered eight Palestinian villages in the West Bank to be razed, claiming the land is needed for military training. Hundreds of Palestinians are to be displaced despite evidence that the villages have existed since 1830.
The residents of the villages, located in the southern region of Hebron, are accused of “illegal dwelling in a fire zone.” The government said in a memo to the Supreme Court on Sunday that the 1,500-plus residents will be moved to the nearby city of Yatta, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported. The Defense Ministry has obtained evidence the Palestinians have permanent homes there.
The West Bank was divided into three zones: Area A, Area B and Area C – in 1993 by the Oslo Accords, which defined the final status of the land. Area A is secured and governed by the Palestinians, while Area C is under full Israeli control. In Area B, the administration comes from the Palestine Authority, while security is provided by Israeli forces. Area C makes up over 60 per cent of the West Bank.
The IDF will allow the displaced Palestinians to continue farming the abandoned land and tending cattle on weekends and holidays, when there is no military training. There will also be two month-long periods allotted to the residents for farming, the memo says.
Despite the evidence the villages existed well before 1976, the Israeli military views the Hebron Hills as theirs, since the land – like most of the West Bank – is graded Area C, which is under Israel’s complete control.
The Israeli Defense Ministry intends to use the land to train its soldiers, which would include firing exercises. This is strictly forbidden in areas where people live nearby, though not on humanitarian grounds. Haaretz says this is not because civilians may get hurt or killed, but because they may spy on the exercises or steal weapons to use for “terror purposes.”
The villages of Majaz, Tabban, Sfaye, Fahit, Halawa, Al Marqaz, Jinba and Kharuba – together with four other locations in the Hebron Hills – have been under threat of demolition since 1999, according to the Association for Human Rights in Israel. An evacuation was halted in 2000 by a court decision after 700 people were evicted. Many Palestinians living there in traditional "fellaheen" communities still reside in caves and tents. They fear they haven fallen prey to an intimidation campaign as Israel seeks new lands on which to build settlements.