The Israeli occupation army is holding military exercises in inhabited Palestinian areas in the West Bank’s Jordan Valley, Tuesday said Aref Daraghme, a human rights defender.
He told the official WAFA news agency that the army started the exercises yesterday afternoon in Khirbet al-Shaq, Khirbet Samra and Khirbet Oheish in the northern Jordan Valley.
The army used heavy machinery in the exercises inside cultivated land and near the residential tents of local dwellers, he said, which places the lives and livelihood of people under threat.
Rights organizations have often accused the army of leaving behind explosives and other dangerous material that pose a threat to the lives of children and other civilians, in addition to destroying crops during the exercises.
They also accused Israel of using the military exercises as a pretext to drive Palestinians off their lands and homes.
A historical perspective
With the routing of the Arab forces in June 1967 the Israelis began their illegal occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. During more than 40 years of occupation the Israelis have confiscated a considerable proportion of the territory in the oPt under the auspices of military needs.
This is in addition to the extensive settlement developments which currently house around half a
million illegal settlers in the oPt.
Israel has confiscated approximately 1000km2 of land to create closed military zones, which amounts to more than 20% of the West Bank territory. Excluding the areas that fall between the green line and the segregation barrier, Palestinians are barred entry to all of the military zones which are mainly on the eastern slopes of the Bethlehem and Hebron Governates in the Jordan Valley.
In 2004 the Israeli authorities declared a buffer zone of 150‐200 meters around the segregation zone resulting in an additional 252km2 of territory becoming inaccessible to Palestinians. Map 1 on the following page illustrates how the closed military zones compromise large chunks of the eastern west bank and strategic areas along the green line.
In these lands reside some of the most vulnerable Palestinian communities including large numbers of small scale herding farming communities. As well as severely impacting upon the livelihoods of these communities it is also forcing them to overgraze on their diminished territories leading to desertification of the terrain.
According to recent research by OCHA the expansion of existing military zones or the creation of new ones continues. In May 2009 over 300 people, including 170 children, were issued with evacuation and demolition orders because of the expansion of the Israeli military zones in the West Bank.