A-Ras al-Ahmar residents wait to be allowed to return home. Photo by ‘Aref Daraghmeh, B’Tselem, 12 October 2015
On 12 and 13 October 2015, the military forced ten families – 52 people, including 20 minors – from the Palestinian community of Khirbet a-Ras al-Ahmar to vacate their homes for three hours each day so troops could train nearby. The families were made to take their flocks and leave the area until the training was over. This followed evacuation orders served them by the Civil Administration on 8 October 2015.
The community, which lives in the Jordan Valley some four kilometers east of the Palestinian town of Tammun, consists of more than 20 families numbering some 120 people, about half of them minors. In May 2015, members of the community were ordered to vacate their homes for several hours to make way for military training, and families were made to leave their homes for six hours at a time on five separate occasions from 30 August to 9 September 2015. The families vacated this week all live in a particular section of the community.
The repeated short-term displacement of Palestinian communities to make way for military training in the Jordan Valley constitutes unreasonable harassment, as residents are given short notice – sometimes mere hours – before they are made to leave home for hours on end. In some cases, residents do not have proper alternative shelter and remain out in the open, exposed to the elements. They are forced to fend for themselves and provide water, food, and shelter for all those displaced, including young children and the elderly, in the extreme weather conditions of the Jordan Valley.
According to international humanitarian law, an occupying state is permitted to take action in the occupied territory for one of two reasons only: the good of the local population or immediate military needs relating to the military’s operations in the occupied territory. As an occupying power, Israel is not entitled to use the land for general military needs, such as training for war or general military exercises. It is certainly not permitted to harm the livelihood of people who are part of the protected population and to act to expel them from their homes, on this pretext. Israel must halt immediately all short-term displacement of communities for the purpose of military training as well as all other actions aimed to pressure Palestinian residents of the Jordan Valley into leaving the area.