An Appeal based on International Law and Human Rights
Israel claims that following the 2006 Lebanon War, its security needs increased and that troops now require additional ongoing training and more firing zones are needed, including Firing Zone 918 in the Masafer Yatta area.
However, this Israeli military requirement has no direct relation with the occupation because it refers to general army trainings; as such and according to international law, it is not a ‘military necessity. This means that the planned Israeli measures of eviction and demolition of eight villages within Firing Zone 918 would be unlawful; They are not permitted under the Hague Regulations and would constitute grave breaches of the IV Geneva Convention as according to international law, ‘military general training’ cannot for any reason be considered as a military need.
Moreover if a firing zone for general military trainings is established under International Humanitarian Law (IHL), in no case could expropriations and movement restrictions be justified in the twelve villages located within Firing Zone 918. According to Article 46 of the Hague Regulation, private property must be respected and cannot be confiscated, which includes the destruction of private property for establishment of a firing zone. Under these circumstances, Israel’s planned destruction of the villages with the purpose of using Firing Zone 918 would constitute a clear violation of the Article. 53 of the IV Geneva Convention and would amount to a grave breach according to Article 147. Finally, in the matter of prohibition of forcible transfer, IHL does not differentiate between permanent and non-permanent residents as the Israeli legislation does. Forcibly displacing any of the inhabitants or any community of the twelve villages (either for general military trainings or for their purported lack of building permits) is a violation of Article 49 of the IV Geneva Convention and constitutes another grave breach to Article 147. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), since 1967 Israel has designated about 18% of the West Bank as a closed military zone for the purposes of military training (not including the closed military areas around Israeli settlements, all the lands located between the Separation Wall and the Green Line), rendering the areas effectively off limits for Palestinians. (Association for Civil Rights in Israel, ACRI)
Appeal by Amnesty International
Under international humanitarian law (IHL), including the Geneva Conventions, evacuations of protected persons (such as the inhabitants of an occupied territory) are only admissible for their own protection, temporarily, and only if there is an imperative military reason for taking this extreme measure. The description of Firing Zone 918 provided by the Israeli state in its legal response, where it claims that the terrain is particularly suitable for specific live-fire training, does not meet the threshold of such an imperative necessity, and therefore, if implemented, the eviction of the residents of this area would constitute forced transfer in violation of IHL. Similarly, IHL prohibits destruction of property in occupied territory except where absolutely necessary for military operations. The military activity that does take place in the area occasionally damages the residents’ property, and arbitrarily restricts movement including access to medical treatment and the transport of water containers. The military administration of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) issues and implements demolition orders against the residents’ property, because there are no planning provisions for Palestinian residency in the eight villages, as well as in dozens of other Palestinian villages around them. The residents’ rights to an adequate standard of living including the rights to water, to the highest attainable standard of health and to education, under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), together with their right not to be discriminated against in relation to those rights, are being violated repeatedly and in various ways.
For years Israel has pursued a policy of discriminatory house demolition, allowing scores of Israeli settlements, illegal under international law, to be built on occupied Palestinian land, while confiscating Palestinian lands, refusing building permits for Palestinians and destroying their homes. In the first half of 2013, more than 250 homes, work sheds and animal pens were destroyed in Area C, displacing at least 300 Palestinians and causing damages to many more, on the grounds that they had been built illegally; Palestinians living there face severe restrictions on building, while settlements for Israelis in the same area continue to expand and are provided with utility services and other infrastructure. International law forbids occupying powers from settling their own citizens in the territories they occupy.
House demolitions are generally carried out without warning of the date and without any consultation, giving no opportunity for Palestinians to salvage their possessions or find at least basic shelter elsewhere. The UN has estimated that some 4,800 demolition orders are pending, many of which are in Area C of the West Bank. In Area C, Israel has complete control over planning and construction and the approximately 150,000 Palestinians living there lack representation at all levels of the Israeli military planning system. Not only are there no Palestinian representatives on the planning institutions, but even the ability of Palestinian residents to submit objections to eviction and demolition orders are very limited. Palestinians, especially villagers in marginal areas such as the hills to the south-east of Hebron and the Jordan Valley, have suffered particular pressure. In a “closed military zone” there is effectively no possibility for Palestinian construction and development. These demolitions amount to forced evictions. This places Israel in breach of its obligations under international human rights law, including the ICESCR, which it ratified in 1991, enshrining the right to adequate housing for everybody and prohibiting forced evictions, defined by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in General Comment 7 as “the permanent or temporary removal against their will of individuals, families and/or communities from the homes and/or land which they occupy, without the provision of and access to, appropriate forms of legal or other protection”.
The situation is compounded by the fact that, under Israeli military law, evicted families are not entitled to alternative housing or compensation, thereby violating their right to effective remedy, meaning many would face homelessness and destitution were it not for relatives, friends and charities. (Amnesty International)
In addition to international protective presence the residents of Masafer-Yatta have called on the international community to publicize their struggle in the media and to write to their elected officials, state departments, embassy officials and appropriate Israeli individuals.
Letters should express concern that some 1,000 people in Safai, Majaz, Tabban, Fakhit, Halaweh, Mirkez, Jinba and Hillet a-Dab’a, located in Firing Zone 918, are in danger of forced transfer and eviction, and call on the authorities to cancel the eviction order immediately;
Call for a complete halt to demolitions of civilian structures in the region, including homes, schools, clinics, places of worship, agricultural buildings and structures, wells, cisterns, community bake ovens and solar and wind energy installations.
Call on them to remove responsibility for planning and building regulations in the Hebron hills and elsewhere in the Occupied Palestinian Territories from the Israeli military authorities and give it solely to the local Palestinian communities;
Call on them to place a moratorium on house demolitions and evictions in the West Bank until the law is amended to bring it into line with international standards.
Minister of Defence Moshe Ya’alon
37 Kaplan Street, Hakirya
Tel Aviv 61909, Israel
Fax: +972 3 696 2757
Salutation: Dear Minister
Military Judge Advocate General Brigadier General Danny Efroni
6 David Elazar Street
Hakirya, Tel Aviv, Israel
Fax: +972 3 569 4526; +972 3 608 0366
Salutation: Dear Judge Advocate General
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Office of the Prime Minister
3 Kaplan St., Qiryat Ben-Gurion
P.O. Box 187, 91919 Jerusalem, Israel
Phone: 011-972-2-670-5555 Fax: From overseas: 011-972-2-566-4838 – From Israel: 02-566-4838
US Secretary of State John Kerry
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
American Ambassador to Israel: Ambassador Daniel B. Shapiro
U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv, American Citizen Services, 71 HaYarkon Street, Tel Aviv 6343229, Israel
03-519-7475 Monday to Thursday between 2 and 4 p.m and 03-519-7575 (after hours and emergencies)
Find local US representatives and senators at:
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