Amidst raids and increased settler violence, Israeli forces raze Palestinian lands in Masafer Yatta

Amidst raids and increased settler violence, Israeli forces raze Palestinian lands in Masafer Yatta
Palestinians in Masafer Yatta continue to face demolition and land razing by Israeli forces, as Israeli raids and settler violence escalate across the West Bank.
3 min read
West Bank
27 June, 2023
Around 1,200 Palestinians live in the Israeli-declared 'firing zone' in Masafer Yatta. [Qassam Muaddi/TNA]

Israeli forces bulldozed on Monday agricultural lands in Masafer Yatta in the southern Hebron hills, located south of the occupied West Bank.

Local sources reported that Israeli bulldozers destroyed one and a half hectares of land cultivated by several families in Masafer Yatta, on the grounds that they hadn't obtained special permits to cultivate them.

"The people in Masafer Yatta always cultivate barley and other crops as food for livestock," Sami Hreini, a resident and activist in Masafer Yatta, told The New Arab. "The occupation has been cracking down on these cultivations lately to restrict people’s ability to live here."

The Israeli army declared Masafer Yatta a "military firing zone" in 1980. Since then, Palestinians in the 12 villages trapped inside the military area are banned from any construction, banned from having any infrastructure or freely cultivating their land and the Israeli authorities issued expulsion orders against the majority of residents.

"The occupation army has escalated demolitions of houses and structures in recent months, to the point that we have some demolition or land bulldozing every day or two," Hreini pointed out.

"Last week, the occupation destroyed a water well and bulldozed shepherds' tents and another cultivated land, and a few days before that they destroyed a water pipeline," he added. "Israeli settlers also attacked one of the villages, protected by the army, and damaged several houses and a car."

Last May, the Israeli supreme court ended a 22-year-long battle over Masafer Yatta, ruling that there were no legal obstacles to expelling Palestinians from the area.

In  January, the Israeli army informed the Palestinian Authority that they will soon evacuate eight of the 12 villages and most of the 1,200 inhabitants of the area for military drills.

"The threat of expulsion has always been looming ahead for the people of Masafer Yatta," noted Sami Hreini. "They are living on their nerves, under the expectation of being expelled at any moment."

Israeli settler violence in the occupied West Bank escalated last week, with Israeli settlers killing one Palestinian and injuring dozens more in an attack on the town of Turmosaya, northeast of Ramallah. Settlers also burned more than two hectares of wheat in the village of Libban, south of Nablus.

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Israeli forces have also escalated raids into Palestinian cities and refugee camps in the occupied West Bank. On Monday, they raided the refugee camp of Aqbat Jabr in Jericho, the refugee camp of Nur Shams in Tulkarm, and the refugee camp of Dheisheh, arresting one Palestinian.

On Tuesday, Israeli forces raided the city of Nablus and the refugee camp of Balata, arresting at least six Palestinians and wounding one. Israeli forces also arrested nine Palestinians across the occupied West Bank. Armed confrontations between raiding Israeli troops and Palestinian fighters were reported in Tulkarm, without casualties.