About 1,200 Palestinians in the Masafer Yatta area (south of the occupied West Bank) are at risk of displacement, to make way for a firing zone for the occupation forces, after a decades-long legal battle that ended last May in the Israeli Supreme Court.

The court ruling opened the way for one of the largest displacements since Israel occupied the West Bank in the 1967 war, but the residents of Masafer Yatta refuse to leave their lands, hoping that their steadfastness and international pressure will prevent Tel Aviv from carrying out the expulsions.

Wadha Ayoub Abu Sabha, a resident of the village of Al-Fakhit in the Masafer Yatta area, says, "The country is so important that they want to take it from us, in order to build settlements," and Wadha added, "We are not going to leave here."

closed military zone

In the eighties of the last century, Israel declared “Masafer Yatta” a closed military zone known as “Firing Zone 918.” Tel Aviv said in court that the area of ​​the area is 7,400 acres (more than 3 hectares) along the border between Israel and the West Bank, and that it is an area "Critical" for military training purposes, and the Palestinians who live there are only seasonal.

Part of the protest of Masafer Yatta residents yesterday, Friday, after the Israeli Supreme Court’s decision paving the way for their displacement (Reuters)

Masafer Yatta residents and Israeli rights groups say many Palestinian families were permanent residents of 7,400 acres prior to Israel's occupation of the West Bank, and that their expulsion would constitute a violation of international law.

Palestinian communities live in this part of the southern Hebron governorate in underground caves, and over the past two decades they have started building tin huts and small rooms above the ground, and Wadha says that the Israeli occupation forces have been demolishing these new huts for years, but now after If they get court support, the deportations are likely to start.

A few steps away, the belongings of the Wadha family were reduced to rubble after the occupation soldiers arrived with bulldozers to demolish some of the huts.

Permanent or seasonal population?

Much of the debate in the legal battle over the Masafer Yatta area has focused on whether the Palestinians living in the area are permanent residents, or seasonal residents.

The Israeli Supreme Court concluded that the residents “failed to substantiate their claims of permanent residence” in the area before declaring it a firing zone, and the court relied on aerial photographs and extracts from a 1985 book cited by both parties to the litigation as evidence.

The book is entitled "Living in the Cave of Mount Hebron" by the Israeli anthropologist Yaakov Habkouk, who spent 3 years studying the lives of Palestinian farmers and shepherds in Masafer Yatta.

Today, the occupation authorities began implementing the decision of the Zionist Supreme Court to destroy the villages of "Masafer Yatta", south of Hebron, inhabited by 1,000 Palestinian families.

This is the largest displacement operation carried out by the terrorist entity since 1970.

After the decision to build 4,000 units for settlers.

This is how the last settlement project on Earth looks like.

pic.twitter.com/fn6mhI00tF

— Dr. Saleh Al-Naami (@salehelnaami) May 11, 2022

Habkouk declined to comment and referred Reuters to his book, and said that he tried to provide an expert opinion on behalf of the residents, at the request of one of their lawyers, but was prevented from doing so by the Israeli Ministry of Defense, as he was working for it at the time.

Nidal Younes, head of the Masafer Yatta village council, said that the court’s decision was a “racist decision taken by settler judge David Mintz, who lives in an illegal settlement in the West Bank.” Nidal added, “We entered into a battle with Israel 22 years ago, and it took this judge 5 Minutes to destroy Palestinian villages, and the people who depend on the land."

International condemnation of the ruling

The United Nations and the European Union condemned the ruling of the Israeli court, and urged Tel Aviv to stop the demolitions and displacement, and a spokesman for the Union said - in a statement - "The establishment of a firing zone cannot be considered a mandatory military reason for the transfer of the occupied population."

Israeli researchers had said that during a meeting of the Israeli government in 1981, then Agriculture Minister Ariel Sharon, who later became prime minister, suggested that the Israeli army expand training areas in the southern Hebron Hills, to expropriate land from the Palestinians.

The Zionist entity is taking advantage of the world's preoccupation with the assassination of #Shirin_Abu_Aqleh and sending its bulldozers and soldiers to #Masafer_Yatta for the ethnic cleansing of the population and the demolition of their homes.

https://t.co/ZVyyyTWu5R

— Samar D Jarrah (@SamarDJarrah) May 11, 2022

Israel fully controls two-thirds of the West Bank and is called "Area C", where most of the Jewish settlements are located, and United Nations data also indicates that Israel has designated about 30% of "Area C" as military firing areas.

As a result of this Israeli designation, dozens of Palestinian communities are at increased risk of forced displacement.

In a related context, a report issued last Tuesday by a commission of inquiry emanating from the United Nations Human Rights Council considered that the policy of forced displacement and the threat of it, the demolition of Palestinian homes and the building and expansion of settlements are all factors that lead to the recurrence of cycles of violence in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The United Nations Organization for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OCHA) said last Monday that the occupation authorities had demolished 300 buildings in the West Bank, including Jerusalem, since the beginning of this year.

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