Israel issues demolition orders for eight Palestinian villages
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on July 22 ordered the demolition of eight Palestinian villages in the hills south of Hebron because the Israeli military needs the land for training exercises. A total of 1,500 residents will be evicted from their homes and have their lands confiscated in the villages of Majaz, Tabban, Sfai, Fakheit, Halaweh, Mirkez, Jinba and Kharuba. Evacuation orders were first issued in 1999, but were frozen by an injunction from the Israeli High Court of Justice. The Israeli military nonetheless views the land as part of its "Firing Zone 918," and the Palestinians living there as illegal squatters. All of the villages in question have existed since at least the 1830s. However, all are in Area C, which is under complete Israeli control.
The IDF says the residents of the targeted villages will be moved to the town of Yatta and its environs. The Israeli government claims, based on local informers, that most of these people have permanent homes in that area. The government says it will allow the residents to work their lands and graze their flocks there when the IDF is not training—on weekends and Jewish holidays
While the evacuation is pending, villages are barred from building on or improving their properties in any way, as this has been determined "illegal construction" and evidence that inhabitants are not longtime residents but new migrants to the area. In practice, this means that residents do not have any way to provide for a naturally expanding population through adding cisterns, plumbing, or rooms to existing properties, or the addition of schools or other new buildings.
The Israeli military intends to use the land to train soldiers and conduct live fire exercises which it cannot do with residents so nearby. State attorneys say this cannot be done with residents in the area, because they may spy on the exercises or steal weapons to use for "terror purposes." (Ha'aretz, IMEMC, July 23)