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Bedouins leave tents to allow Israeli millitary drill

posted 2 Jan 2013, 08:18 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 2 Jan 2013, 08:19 ]

Bedouin residents of Wadi Al-Maleh leave their tents for 48 hours after being served an order to vacate the area and allow an Israeli military drill to go ahead.

WADI AL-MALEHWEST BANK (JANUARY 2, 2013) (REUTERS) -  Palestinian bedouins in the West Bank village of Wadi al-Maleh began leaving their tents and farms on Wednesday (January 2) for 48 hours to comply with an Israeli military order demanding they vacate the area to allow military training to take place there.

The Bedouin residents were seen putting equipment and belongings into trailers, and rounding up sheep grazing on the hills nearby a stone tablet warning that the area was to be used for firing exercises.

The Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad, in August condemned Israel's plan to evict shepherd communities in the occupied West Bank as a move to depopulate Palestinian areas.

Holding one of the military orders in his hands, local resident Ibrahim Daraghmeh said they were left with no choice but to leave, even though they had no idea where to go.

"The Israeli army gave us orders to leave the area because there is a military drill. We suffer because it's winter and we have livestock. We don't know where to go, we have children and livestock, and we have planted crops in this area," he said.

Israel has designated the area south of the city of Hebron as a closed military zone and asked for Supreme Court approval to help move some residents.

But Palestinian villagers say Israel wants to eject them from the area in order to clear a path for the expansion of nearby Jewish settlements.

The Bedouin village of Wadi Al-Maleh is situated in Area C in the eastern part of theJordan Valley: the 60 percent of the West Bank which is under full Israeli control and where most Jewish settlements are located.

A statement by the Israeli army given to Reuters said those people affected by the military exercise were on the land 'illegally'.

"Due to a military exercise that is scheduled to take place this week in the Jordan Valley region and in order to ensure the safety of the local inhabitants, temporary eviction notices were distributed to the residents of the illegal structures located in a closed military zone to be used in the exercise," the statement read.

Israeli authorities said that once the exercise is over the resident would be able to return.

The Bedouin more specifically say they are being forced to forgo many aspects of their traditional way of life which relies on land, livestock and tents.

All have been targets of Israeli restrictions.

Israel says the camps are set up illegally without permits, and sometimes stand in the way of urban planning.

In more remote parts of the occupied West Bank, the army evicts Bedouin it says are squatting inside live-firing ranges.

Critics say these are just excuses for land grabs.

The Bedouin in the hills east of Jerusalem have no running water, grid electricity, medical facilities or sanitation in their tent communities, relying on open fires and water tanks.

Goats and sheep and barefoot children wander around throughout the scorching summer months and short, sharp winters.

The Israeli army trains in some areas of the Jordan Valley, which are areas determined to be a dry fire training zone, and have been defined as closed military zones since 1968.

The head of the village council, Aref Daraghmeh, said it was a clear case of applying different rules to Palestinian and Jewish settlements.

"It is not right that the Israeli army trains between the people that live here and they stay far away from the settlements and keeps the settlements safe, while this area is subjected to a military drill where there are children. The residents are afraid about this situation, around 75 families will leave this area from this evening only to return on Thursday, because of the military drills in the area,'' he said..

The United Nations' International Court of Justice and most governments deem Jewish settlements in the West Bank illegal.

Israel disputes this and also cited Biblical and historical links to the land.

The hamlets of Al-Mufaqara, Tuba, Majaz, Tabban, Sfaye, Fakhit, Halawa, Al Marqaz, Jinba, Kharuba, Megheir al-Abeid and Sarura have been under threat of demolition since 1999, according to the Association for Human Rights in Israel.

An evacuation was halted in 2000 by a court decision after 700 people had already been evicted.

According to the U.N. Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 10 Jewish settlement outposts are located either partially or completely in army firing zones.

OCHA says some 38 communities with 5,000 Palestinians, mostly Bedouin and pastoral communities in the West Bank, reside in areas designated as "firing zones" - which comprise approximately 18 percent of the West Bank.

Residents of firing zones are routinely subject to demolition orders.

Almost half of all demolitions since 2010 have occurred in these areas, displacing over 820 Palestinians so far, according to OCHA.

In May, EU foreign ministers criticised what they said were worsening conditions for Palestinians living in Area C.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency says approximately 17,000 Bedouin live in the occupied West Bank.

Most struggle with Israeli restrictions on their movements and access to grazing fields that are located in so-called Area C, where Israel retains authority over planning and zoning.

Tens of thousands more Bedouin live in Israel and they too complain of discrimination, saying Israeli officials are looking to shunt them off the land and into urban environments that are at odds with their traditions.