RAMALLAH, May 16 (JMCC) - Israeli military officials will soon decide if Palestinians living in caves near a West Bank firing range will have to leave their homes, reports The Independent
Israel's Defence Ministry is to rule on the fate of the Palestinian communities within days, a decision that will then come up before the Supreme Court before a final ruling. Activists anticipate that the government will demand the total or partial expulsion of the 12 impoverished farming villages, home to some 1,600 people, that lie within the firing zone, a designation that rights groups say is a land grab concealed as a security need.
We don't have any other land to go to, says Khaled Jabareen, 41, whose family's cave is surrounded by makeshift homes and farmsteads scattered on the hillside.
A Defence Ministry official declined to be drawn on its position, saying that there was, as yet, no concrete decision on the matter. In 1999, Israel evacuated the villagers by force, demolishing homes and property. A year later, the Supreme Court said the farmers could return, pending a final decision, abandoning them to a state of limbo. In the interim, the Palestinians have fought a Second Intifada, and Israel has erected a separation barrier confining most Palestinians to the West Bank, and cutting them off from job opportunities in Israel. As a result, young men from these communities are returning to what their forefathers did best: working the land.
Over the years, the villages, located in one of the most arid parts of the West Bank, have expanded, and Britain's Department for International Development has funded the construction of dozens of toilets and water cisterns to collect rainfall as part of humanitarian assistance projects. All of these are facing demolition orders.