Residents of Ibziq. Photo: B'Tselem, 6 March 2013
On Monday, 25 May 2015, representatives of the Civil Administration (CA) came to the Palestinian community of Ibziq in the Jordan Valley and told four families the military would be holding maneuvers in the area near their homes the following day. They ordered the four families to evacuate their homes for the whole of the next day – from 6:00 A.M. to midnight. The families number a total of 19 people, including five minors.
In early May, the CA ordered hundreds of Palestinian residents in seven communities in the Jordan Valley to evacuate their homes on short notice, for varying periods of time. At that time, too, the residents were told that the military needed to use the area of their homes for training. Among the families evacuated were 10 families from Ibziq, numbering some 50 people, about half of them minors – including the four families who were again on Monday to leave their homes. Over the last two years, Israeli authorities have forced residents of Ibziq to evacuate their homes more than 20 times for military maneuvers in the area.
It is extremely difficult for whole families, including children, to be evacuated on such short notice, even for several hours. With no properly arranged place to stay, they must find a way to ensure shelter, food and drink away from home in the intense, grueling heat of the Jordan Valley. The evacuations earlier this month caused financial losses to the communities, which live solely off farming and shepherding: as the residents had to leave their livestock untended in the extreme heat, some of the animals died. In addition, ammunition remnants from the military training caused fires and dozens of hectares of pasture and cultivated agricultural land went up in flames. Other farmland was trampled by the troops.
The military has been training more frequently in the Jordan Valley over the last three years. The increased frequency follows an official policy, one of whose declared goals is to prevent Palestinians from living on land declared by Israel as firing zones. Under international humanitarian law, an occupying state is permitted to operate within the occupied territory for two reasons only: the benefit of the local population and immediate military concerns relating to the military’s actions in the occupied territory. As an occupying power in the West Bank, Israel is not allowed to use land there for general military purposes such as training for warfare and general maneuvers. It certainly is not allowed to use such a pretext to harm the livelihood of protected persons, nor take steps to expel them from their homes.
Israel must immediately stop the temporary evacuation of Palestinian communities in the West Bank for the purpose of military training, and must cease all other actions taken in an attempt to force Palestinians out of the area. Israel is duty-bound to enable local residents to live their lives, including allowing them to build their homes legally and use local water sources.