Christian Peacemaker Teams Palestine – Over 1000 Palestinians, nearly half of them children, face imminent forced expulsion from their homes in Masafer Yatta, which lies within Israeli Firing Zone 918.
The residents of Masafer Yatta urgently need your help to prevent the forced removal of their villages. Their legal status is precarious, and their homes and schools could be demolished at any time. Such an action by the Israeli military would constitute the largest forced expulsion of Palestinian civilians in many years. Imagine that your neighborhood was declared a firing range. You would be threatened with forced evacuation. Demolition orders would be issued for your home, your church, and the school your children attend. Your land would cease to belong to you, and your livestock would be removed.
This is what families living in eight villages in the southern West Bank region known as Masafer Yatta face.
Twelve villages lie within the area Israel claims as Firing Zone 918. Residents of four of the villages have been told they are excluded from the attempted eviction only because the ammunition used by soldiers training for war near their homes is not live. The 1000 residents of the other eight villages, half of whom are children, could lose their homes, their schools, their crops and livestock, their mosques and their way of life within the year.
These Palestinian families were forcibly removed by the Israeli military in 1999 and many of their homes, wells and animal shelters were destroyed. Some of the region’s residents returned in 2000 after a successful court battle. Since then they have lived under constant threat of home demolition, settler violence and military harassment.
On January 16 of this year the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) filed a petition on behalf of residents and the Israeli court granted a temporary order preventing forcible transferring of the families pending a further decision.
The temporary order is all that is currently preventing the forced removal of the families living in Masafer Yatta.
In the past month soldiers have repeatedly driven large vehicles across planted fields, confiscated cars, cameras, phones and livestock belonging to residents, landed helicopters next to dwellings and livestock, and threatened families with imminent eviction and destruction of their homes. Children find unexploded ordnance in the fields where their sheep graze.
On February 28 14 Palestinians, including four children aged four to nine, were stopped and detained by Israeli soldiers overnight for 8 hours. The group was traveling to see family members who are residents of Jinba, the largest of the 8 villages under threat. Soldiers confiscated four vehicles and the cell phones of family members who came to find their relatives. The group was unable to contact anyone until police arrived the following morning.
On February 18 Soldiers confiscated two newborn goats and a donkey from Kamel Mahamra, a shepherd from the village of Maghayir al-Abeed, who was grazing his animals near the village of Al-Majaz, inside firing range 918. The soldiers loaded the kids into a Hummer and took the shepherd’s donkey, which was harnessed to a wheeled water container. (See article published in Haaretz by Amira Haas)