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IDF takes over Palestinian village for live-fire training exercises

Screen shot 2012 06 29 at 10 20 42 AM
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!”

Donna Baranski-Walker

Donna Baranski-Walker is founder and Executive Director of Rebuilding Alliance, a U.S. Nonprofit based in Silicon Valley that helps Palestinian villages build affordable homes, schools and most recently, a birthing center and works to make them safe.

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15 Responses

  1. seafoid on June 29, 2012, 2:02 pm

    IDF conscripts are beneath contempt.

    The most moral army in the world- how would this sort of behaviour from the Marines go down in Borough Park?

  2. annie on June 29, 2012, 2:05 pm

    this is so outrageous i just blasted it off to the state department. is their nothing they won’t do?

  3. FreddyV on June 29, 2012, 2:17 pm

    Mayor Haj Sami Sadeq remarked, “Where else would [the soldiers] feel so safe? We would have offered them tea!”

    Yes! I know there are many faiths on here, but there’s a New Testament scripture I find so relevant.

    Romans 12:20.

    Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.

    Start heaping them coals!

  4. Henry Norr on June 29, 2012, 2:29 pm

    Small technical suggestion: the link to the presentation says it’s a PDF, but in fact (as stated in the text) it’s a PowerPoint file, not a PDF. Since a lot of us don’t have PowerPoint, at least not on the device we’re reading this site from, but most folks can open PDFs, it would be good to make a PDF version available.

  5. ToivoS on June 29, 2012, 5:03 pm

    Why would the IDF have exercises inside a Palestinian village.

    The first guess is that it is just routine harassment of the Palestinian people, part of the long term campaign to make life so unbearable that they will emigrate.

    On the other hand, maybe the IDF is anticipating some future military actions that will take place inside Palestinian villages. Could this be contingency planning for a possible reaction to an Israel provoked war against Iran? That could be an international crisis of sufficient magnitude that the Israelis would not want to waste.

    • Avi_G. on June 29, 2012, 7:36 pm


      This tactic has been used a few hundred times over the years.

      Live-fire training exercises are going to be scary for the residents of this Palestinian village. The village will also be put under curfew a few times while training takes place inside the village. The curfew will be sold as an excuse to protect the local residents from the training.

      Al-Aqaba’s residents will also be fearful that a stray bullet might find its way to the head of one of its children. Then one day an ‘accident’ will happen and a Palestinian child will in fact be hit by a ‘stray’ bullet. The village’s residents will protest and the Israeli army will send reinforcements to quell the protests, killing in the process a few more Palestinians.

      The village of Al-Aqaba is located in what became known after the Oslo Accords as Area B. Israel wants to ethnically cleanse Area B to make way for more colonies. The plan is to consolidate Area C and B by driving Palestinians into Area A (Major city centers like Ramallah and Nablus).

      Do you see the Palestinian Built-Up Areas marked in brown in this map?

      Israel hates those fragments and wants to see them consolidated so as to ‘put the land to better use’ (Read: Build colonies).

      • ToivoS on June 30, 2012, 12:48 am

        Dear Avi

        Thanks for the clarification. This kind of action seemed new to me. I guess it makes it better to know that this has been going on for some time.

        My knowledge is somewhat limited. I have been wondering for awhile if all these atrocities being committed against the Palestinians are all that new or if it is just a matter of MW revealing what has been going on all along. I am getting the impression that the Israelis are becoming more agressive but it is equally possible that I am just becoming more aware of what has been going on all along.

      • seafoid on June 30, 2012, 2:03 am

        The IDF has a new campaign to stop soldiers being abducted while hitch hiking, the dumb [email protected]

      • seafoid on June 30, 2012, 2:06 am

        “Israel hates those fragments and wants to see them consolidated so as to ‘put the land to better use’ (Read: Build colonies).”

        Does anyone have an overview of how the ethnic cleansing of Area B is going?

        Israel seems to believe that if you pauperize and immiserate a population enough it will disappear but the practice on the ground does not seem to bear out this theory.

    • ColinWright on June 30, 2012, 2:56 am

      There’s also the irrational angle. Aside from the logical goal of harassing the Palestinians until they leave, I’d guess the Israelis get a charge out of terrorizing Palestinians.

      Of course, I have an extremely low opinion of Israelis. It’s possible this training was absolutely vital, and they regret the misery they caused the perfectly harmless villagers.

  6. DICKERSON3870 on June 29, 2012, 5:52 pm

    RE: “IDF takes over Palestinian village for live-fire training exercises”

    MY COMMENT: At least they were identifiable as IDF soldiers. Not so with the Duvdevan soldiers (who wander around dressed as Palestinians, not in uniform and without obvious weaponry). See what that leads to in the article below.

    ALSO SEE: “IDF soldiers enter village, kill Palestinian in drill gone awry”, by Yossi Gurvitz, +972 Magazine, 4/18/12

    ‘Ynet’ sure knows how to bury the lede: They report that a Duvdevan Unit soldier was dismissed from his unit after kicking the face of a handcuffed Palestinian two weeks ago. Such a dismissal, were it attended by several months in prison, would indeed be a proper punishment; but this is not the important story.
    How did the Palestinian find himself in handcuffs in the first place? Well, a team of armed Duvdevan soldiers (who wander around dressed as Palestinians, not in uniform and without obvious weaponry) decided to hold an infiltration practice drill in a Palestinian village. Their infiltration skills were not up to snuff, as it turned out, and the villagers – who suffered recently from a wave of burglaries – took them for burglars, and attacked them with cold weapons, wounding one. The gunmen [Duvdevan soldiers] opened fire, wounding two of the people who were trying to defend their home and property. One of them later died of his wounds. The other was kicked in the face while handcuffed. . .
    . . . A few years back, the Knesset passed a bill called the Daromi Law, which made it permissible for a person to defend himself from burglars even with deadly force. When you think about the Palestinians’ lack of rights, you ought to remember that the basic right to defend yourself from armed IDF soldiers is lacking – even when you mistake them for common criminals, not legalized ones. This is not the only case when a drill using live Palestinians ended in death: a drill in Ketziot Prison, intended to build morale, ended with the guards shooting prisoners in their cells, killing one and wounding others. . .


  7. seafoid on June 30, 2012, 2:13 am

    There can be no nobler purpose to a life than to die in action for the IDF and be buried young on “Mt Herzl” (Jebel al jaish al majnoon) in a coffin draped in the flag with a fruity blonde wife in tears over the grave

    What a cult !

  8. Abuadam on June 30, 2012, 9:57 pm

    “Jebel al jaish al majnoon” and fruity blond wife.
    LOL, I fell out of my chair!!

  9. talknic on July 1, 2012, 12:40 pm

    There can be no nobler purpose to a life than to die in action for the IDF and be buried young in “territories occupied”, never legally annexed to Israel.

  10. ColinWright on July 2, 2012, 3:15 pm

    Here’s another one that definitely should be seen, even if I don’t know where to stick it.

    The title of the video could be ‘what’s in the sausage.’ Skip to about 1:15 if you get bored.

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