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Living under a temporary injunction in Firing Zone 918

January 23, 2014 at 4:48 am

On January 16, 2013 the Association for Civil Rights in Israel filed a petition against government plans to forcibly displace around 1,000 Palestinians living in rural villages in the Yatta District in South Hebron, known as Firing Zone 918. The High Court’s response was to issue a temporary injunction prohibiting the displacement, until a final decision is taken by the court at a later date.

Firing Zone 918 is home to a community of 1,300 Palestinians living in hamlets across the area; it is also designated as an Israel Defence Forces artillery firing range. Orders to evacuate were originally issued in August and November 1997, citing “illegal dwelling in a fire zone”. Despite the fact that Palestinian communities have been dwelling in the area for many decades prior to the 1967 occupation, the excuse to expropriate further Palestinian land under the pretext of a restricted military zone designated in the 1970s was ample reason for Israeli authorities to destroy the villagers’ property, rendering them homeless.

Last year, the state announced that only four out of the twelve villages would be allowed to remain and live ammunition would not be used by the IDF in their vicinity. The remaining eight villages were left prone to evacuation and forced displacement. The villagers have been living under an interim order which has been challenged again, on the basis of flouting international law relating to forced deportations from occupied territory.
Michael Bothe, an expert in international law, has declared that any military exercise resulting in the forced displacement of civilians goes against the rights of protected people living under occupation. Furthermore, the stipulated “general training needs” of the IDF given as a reason for the displacement does not constitute a direct requirement and bears no relation to the dynamics of occupation, since it fails to relate to a necessity in Firing Zone 918. Any harm resulting from the impending forced displacement would go beyond the loss of a dwelling and agricultural land; it would contribute to the insecurity of existence for the population under occupation. Bothe deems the displacement of the population in Firing Zone 918 as a violation of Article 46 of the Hague Regulations regarding protection of private property; Article 27 of the Geneva Convention on humanitarian guarantees of protected persons; Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on freedom of movement; and Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which promotes the right to pursue a livelihood.

The community is already living under deprivation and restrictions imposed by the occupying power, Israel. Testimony gathered by Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem shows that permanent housing structures are prohibited in the zone; as such, people are forced to live in tents or shelters. The construction of roads is not allowed, with the IDF citing “infiltration into Israel” as a reason to deny reasonable access to neighbouring villages. Cisterns have been destroyed to prevent villagers from having access to water in an area which is relatively arid. Medical and educational facilities, as well as social services, are non-existent, and villagers have to rely on volunteers for limited community services. What resonates is the threat of dispossession, as villagers contemplate the possibility of losing their right to their own land under Israel’s apartheid state.

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