Palestinians face losing their home on the (firing) range
About 1,500 Palestinians living in the South Hebron Hills will likely be uprooted to make way for an Israeli military firing range.
Ramallah, West Bank
Khalid Jabareen's tone was frantic as he discussed the future of his village and family, even though he thought the moment he dreaded – when they would be expelled from their homes – was months away.Skip to next paragraph
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“What should we do when they come to kick us out? They will come with bulldozers when our children are asleep. Then we don’t know where to go,” Mr. Jabareen said, speaking last week in the West Bank town of Yatta. “I think we have three or four months until we are expelled.”
Two days later, the Israeli military sent the first unmistakable sign to his village Jinba of residents' impending expulsion, as scores of armed soldiers entered their village, checked IDs, and photographed the residents’ cave dwellings and tents.
“We were all sleeping when we heard the noise of the helicopters,” Jabareen recounts a day after the raid. “They told us to leave our homes for an hour, set up an army tent close by, and took photos.”
His village of Jinba is one of eight in the South Hebron Hills, home to about 1,500 Palestinians altogether, that will soon be uprooted to make way for Firing Zone 918, a military training ground. The Israeli Ministry of Defense asked the High Court of Justice to green-light the necessary evictions and demolitions last month, setting in motion the eviction of Palestinian residents who say their roots there go back generations.
The Israeli plan to transform the hilly landscape at the southern tip of the West Bank into a firing zone goes back to the 1970s, when the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) declared some 30,000 dunams (7,500 acres) in the area a closed military zone. Under Israeli military law, only permanent residents are allowed to remain in closed military zones, and most of the residents do not meet the requirements to be considered permanent residents by the Israeli authorities. Some of them live in traditional tents and caves, by choice, while others have been unable to obtain the permits necessary to legally build.
Palestinians continued to live in the area relatively unperturbed until 1999, when eviction orders forced the evacuation of about 700 residents.
What followed were petitions by the residents and Israeli NGOs to the Israeli Supreme Court and an unsuccessful mediation effort. In the meantime, Palestinians continued to live and work on the land they say they have lived on for generations. The legal proceedings continued for 12 years, until the Israeli defense ministry finally pushed for the Supreme Court's approval for the evacuation of the area.