‘Every day is worse than the one before’: a Palestinian community fights for survival

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One of the biggest expulsion decisions since the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories began in 1967 has left an entire community at risk

designated this 3,000ha area of the barren south Hebron hills as a military training zone – Firing Zone 918 – in the 1980s. After decades of legal battles, however, four months ago the supreme court finally agreed with the IDF’s argument that the people living in Masafer Yatta could not prove they were residents before the firing zone was established.

Since the legal limbo ended in May, the situation has changed quickly for the worse. Demolitions have accelerated, with all 80 people living in Khallet Athaba’ expected to lose their homes when bulldozers arrive on Thursday. The army has also increased live fire training, sometimes leaving behind casings and debris residents fear could be unexploded ordnance.Nidal Younes

To avoid the IDF, residents now call ahead to other villages to try to figure out the movement of the armoured personnel carriers travelling on circuitous unpaved roads. Many families have gone back to using donkeys, rather than cars, to get around. The Guardian travelled in one of the few Palestinian-owned vehicles now allowed to traverse the area – and even then, no one dared to use roads with army checkpoints.

“Ammar was born with a heart condition. He needs medicine every day, and has to go to the hospital a lot. Last week we were stopped by soldiers, and they took the car, and took [Mohammed] to the base, and left me and Ammar on the side of the road,” Mina said. Under this campaign of attrition, some people have been forced to leave for nearby Yatta town. The effect is perhaps most noticeable at the area’s only secondary school: students are now on average an hour late every morning after navigating the new checkpoints, the headteacher said, and staff coming from Yatta town have been turned back, detained or had cars confiscated.

While human rights lawyers are filing interim injunctions to try to stop the live fire exercises and halt evacuation orders, legal avenues in Israel for saving Masafer Yatta appear to be all but exhausted.


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