On the heels of demolition orders to clear eight Palestinian villages for a military training field in the Hebron Hills, masked Israeli soldiers descended from helicopters and raided one of the still inhabited towns. Amira Hass reported in Haaretz on August 7, 2012:
Two Israel Air Force helicopters landed soldiers on Tuesday in Jinba, an isolated village inhabited by cave dwellings in the southern West Bank. It is one of eight villages slated for demolition according to Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s plan to allow the military to resume its training in the area, known as Firing Zone 918.
According to reports by the residents, the helicopters landed and took off at the site six times, each time carrying soldiers. The soldiers erected a command center in a tent outside the village, and two jeeps and a Hummer parked next to the tent.
The soldiers, who were masked and armed, raided the village, photographed and mapped the cave dwellings, the tents and the structures, and made extensive searches while causing property damage, the residents said. The soldiers also emptied out the contents of closets and poured out jugs of milk and cream.
Today’s raid follows two last week in Tuba and Magher al-Abeed. A similar exercise also took place earlier this summer in June in al-Aqaba when the Israeli military took over part of the center of the village to resume the banned practice of live-fire training in the village.
The battle between the military and the villagers dates back to 1999 after the Oslo Accords delineated tracts of the West Bank to Israeli control. The state embarked on proceedings to takeover all eight villages, but 200 Palestinian families fought back in the courts, and with help from Israeli attorney Shlomo Lecker and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, in 2000 the Palestinians won an injunction against evictions. Undeterred by the court, Hass notes that after the ruling the government issued demolitions on new construction of dire need to the villagers, such as communal restrooms. But despite this continued harassment the eviction stays were essentially honored until Ehud Barak announced on August 5th that the military would open a practice field on the villages. Barak’s team presented new evidence using statements from three Palestinians, attesting the villagers were “seasonal” residents to their property, not “permanent,” thus nullifying their right to remain. The civil administration’s use of affidavits by Palestinians, against other Palestinians, has recently come under criticism after a number of sworn statements used to benefit settlers were proven false.
With the court ruling trampled, the new orders called to raze the homes of 1,500 Palestinians residing in Fakheit, Halaweh, Jinba, Kharuba, Majaz, Mirkez Sfai, and Tabban. Access to agricultural lands will also be restricted in Megheir al-Abeid, Mufaqara.
Hass writes, “the villages have existed since at least the 1830s.” And even though the Palestinians own the land in question, have top-notch legal support, and a court ruling in their favor, theie plight of the is no match for the might of the Israeli military backed by government bulldozers.
As in all cases of demolition the villages can always file an appeal, or try to get another stays, but even those weak protections are being eroded. This week the Israeli government announced court petitions now require Israeli ID or foreign passport numbers, restricting access to the legal system to both Palestinians living in West Bank and Gaza, and African migrants seeking to appeal their deportations. Instances like the eight Palestinian villages neighboring Hebron demonstrate even in the best of circumstances, with a fair trial with a favorable decision, nothing will stop Israeli expansion into the West Bank.