Al-Aqada’s Mayor Haj Sami Sadeq watches as the Israeli army enters the village to resume live-fire training exercises, June 27, 2012. (Photo: The Rebuilding Alliance)
For the past month, a massive Israeli military training exercise has been underway in the northern Jordan Valley. Israeli troops entered al-Aqaba village last night and conducted live-fire training exercises adjacent to the mosque, al-Aqaba Guesthouse, and the mayor’s home. Crackling rifle fire and rocket fire continued into the early morning, well past 2:00 AM.
These live-fire training exercises ignore guidelines for the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) set by the Israeli High Court in 2001, which state that the center of the village cannot be used for training with live ammunition. Yesterday’s training, documented by Swedish visitors staying in the Guesthouse, is a clear violation of the state’s own commitment.
Bullet and shell casings were found this morning. On-the-ground activist Nina Larsson filmed the soldiers entering, and then firing late at night:
Nina also describes the Israeli military incursion in the first video:
In this video you see Haj Sami approaching them asking what they are doing in his village. ‘Military training,’ they said, and told me to stop taking pictures and shooting with my camera.
Later on that night the soldiers fire rifle ammunition and launch rockets into the air in between people’s homes till late night. It is not yet clarified whether live ammunition was used. The soldiers have been carrying out heavy military training outside the village for the last two weeks (there is a IDF training camp a couple of kilometers from the village). The villagers have not been able to sleep due to the shooting and bombing. But this is the first time in almost ten years that they enter the village to undergo training in between the houses, and next to the mosque and school (see videos on this). The people of the village are alarmed and scared that such dangerous methods of training is being carried out right next to their homes. Next morning bullets were found on the ground.
In addition to Israeli troops entering al-Aqaba, bulldozers heading for the village turned instead to the nearby Bedouin neighborhood in El Maleh, demolishing tent-homes and water cisterns.
Al-Aqaba villagers have been extremely anxious due to the Israeli Civil Administration’s rejection of the village’s land use plan on June 24. This was the third rejection of an al-Aqaba land use plan, and even included a notice that al-Aqaba has no right to plan. The Civil Administration then gave three days notice that they will demolish four homes just outside the center of the village. The Israeli High Court, however, has provided some breathing space for the village, and has agreed to review petitions submitted by the four families most at risk. The High Court will issue its decision in only a few days’ time, on July 4. Will the court recognize the villagers’ right to a home? Will the Army honor the court’s judgment?
We ask that Mondoweiss readers call senior staffers at their Senators’ and Representatives’ offices. Our organization, the Rebuilding Alliance, has developed a downloadable PowerPoint to explain how you can go about doing this. In our experience, this type of detailed and fact-based call really does make a difference. You can find the presentation here (PDF).
This is one of the few times since 2001 that the IDF has conducted live-fire training exercises in al-Aqaba, but incidents involving the army entering the village have occurred more recently. On February 22, 2012, over 250 Israeli troops entered the village to camp out overnight; some soldiers slept in driveways, some in doorways, and three even slept just outside the mosque delaying the morning prayer. After the shock wore off a few days later, Mayor Haj Sami Sadeq remarked, “Where else would [the soldiers] feel so safe? We would have offered them tea!”