Palestinians living in IDF firing zones, particularly in the Jordan Valley and the South Hebron Hills, are especially vulnerable to home demolitions by Israeli security forces, according to a UN report issued this week by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
“Some 45 percent of demolitions of Palestinian-owned structures in Area C since 2010 have occurred in firing zones, displacing over 820 Palestinian civilians,” the OCHA report said.
Approximately 38 Palestinian villages with a total population of 5,000 are located in West Bank IDF firing zones, the report said.
Two schools and one kindergarten located in the zones also have demolition orders issued against them.
OCHA issued its report as Palestinians in eight South Hebron villages located in the firing zones are battling state plans to evict them from their homes.
The issue is now before the High Court of Justice, which is in the midst of deliberating an IDF order against the Palestinians in an area known as Firing Zone 918.
In a document submitted to the court by the Attorney- General’s Office in July with respect to Firing Zone 918, the state said that illegal construction was growing in these areas, particularly at a time when the IDF was increasing its use of the firing zones.
The document included a statement from the Civil Administration saying that “as of 2009 there has been an increasing trend to support and strengthen the population in Area C, conducted by the Palestinian Authority with the help of international organizations.”
The state added that the army was also concerned that people in firing zones could “collect intelligence [of] IDF training methods or gather weapons that the forces leave behind for purposes of terrorist activity.”
According to OCHA, however, the IDF has blocked off large tracts of land – 18% of the West Bank – and declared it a closed military, or “firing” zone.
The report estimates that the size of the zones is equal to the amount of territory in Area A, which is fully under the Palestinian Authority.
The report says 80% of the 38 villages located in firing zones are in the Jordan Valley or the South Hebron Hills. It adds that many of the Palestinians residing there herd sheep for a living and depend on the land for their livelihood.
“They routinely face restrictions on grazing livestock in these areas and are subject to substantial fines and/or imprisonment,” the report said.
The reduced access to the land has resulted in an increased dependency on fodder to feel their animals or overgrazing. Both these issues, “contribute to diminished livelihoods,” the report said.
Palestinian residents of the zones are among the most vulnerable in the West Bank, because their access to education and health care is limited. Communities lack infrastructure such as water, sanitation and electricity.
“Many of the communities have sustained multiple waves of destruction,” the document continued.
According to OCHA, there are 10 West Bank outposts located in IDF firing zones which do not face the same threats of destruction.
These outposts include Hills 777 and 836 near the Itamar settlement; Hill 833 near Ma’on; Ma’ale Hagit near Ma’ale Michmash; Ma’ale Rehav’am near Kfar Eldad; Magen Dan near Elkana; Mitzpe Kramm near Kochav HaShahar; Mitzpe Yair near Sussiya; Tekoa D near Tekoa and Yitav East near Yitav.