- Published on Wednesday, 08 August 2012 09:45
The IDF sent masked, armed soldiers to Jinba, a village in the South Hebron Hills region, on Tuesday, leading to increased fear amongst residents that Israel is moving ahead with its plan to demolish villages in the area.
Two Israel Air Force helicopters brought soldiers to the village in the southern West Bank, each taking off and landing with soldiers six times, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Tuesday.
Jinba is one of eight villages slated for demolition under Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak's plan for the military to restart training in the area, also known as Firing Zone 918.
The villagers, who were not given any explanation as to the nature of the IDF operation, reported that the soldiers caused extensive damage to property while searching the village, and photographing and mapping the cave and tent dwellings. The soldiers also emptied cupboards, and poured out jugs of milk and cream, the villagers alleged.
Haaretz also reported that similar raids were carried out by the IDF last week on two of the four villages in the same area that are not slated for demolition, Tuba and Magher al-Abeed.
The Israeli government has said in the past that it will not allow the army to train in the area. Responding to the raid, Tamar Feldman, a lawyer for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) told Haaretz that an injunction issued in 2000 by Israel's High Court of Justice was supposed to stop the demolition of the villages and prevent the residents from being expelled.
Shlomo Lecker, a lawyer representing Jinba's residents, called the raids a "heavy-handed violation of the injunction issued by Supreme Court President Aharon Barak in 2000".
However, the Jerusalem Post has reported that High Court of Justice is currently considering an IDF order against the Palestinian residents of Firing Zone 918.
A document submitted by the Attorney General's office to the court in July claimed that illegal construction was increasing in the areas used as 'firing zones' by the IDF.
A statement in the document said, "as of 2009 there has been an increasing trend to support and strengthen the population in Area C, conducted by the Palestinian Authority with the help of international organizations."
The statement added that the IDF was also concerned that those living in the firing zones could "collect intelligence [of] IDF training methods or gather weapons that the forces leave behind for purposes of terrorist activity."
A UN report issued this week by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) concluded that Palestinians living in the firing zones are particularly vulnerable to home demolitions carried out by the Israeli security forces.
The OCHA report stated that 45% of demolitions of Palestinian-owned property in Area C since 2010 have been in firing zones, with at least 820 Palestinians displaced. There is full Israeli civil and security control in Area C, except over Palestinian civilians.
The report also estimates that the IDF has blocked off about 18% of West Bank land for use as a closed firing zone, equal to the amount of land in Area A where the Palestinian Authority has full control.
There are an estimated 38 Palestinian villages, with a total population of around 5,000 people located in the IDF firing zones.