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 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.
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.
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.