SOUTH HEBRON HILLS: The Villages of Firing Zone 918 – Existence Is Resistance

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  entrance forbidden to Masafa Yatta in “Firing Zone 918”

4 January 2014

SOUTH HEBRON HILLS: The Villages of Firing Zone 918 – Existence Is Resistance

One of the
Israeli military’s ways of legalizing ethnic cleansing is to designate an area
a “Firing Zone” for military maneuvers. This is happening today in the South
Hebron Hills. They have declared Firing Zone 918, and eight
Palestinian villages—encompassing a population of 932 people, including 452
children—have been served eviction orders. The inhabitants are farmers and
shepherds with 12,500 head of goats and sheep.

Israeli human rights
organizations have appealed the evictions in Israeli courts. In the meantime,
Israeli authorities refuse permits for any improvements to their villages. The residents
have no electricity, water, sewage or road services. Forced to proceed without
building permits, they have received many demolition orders issued against
solar panels, new cisterns and buildings—and three schools. Schools
stabilize families in the area, because they no longer need to send their
children to the city of Yatta for school, which is where the Israeli government
wants them to move.

CPT received a call to
attend a Saturday, 7 December, meeting of the South Hebron Hills Popular
Resistance Committee in the village of At-Tuwani. The local leader of the
committee, and other Palestinian villagers welcomed four groups of
Internationals: Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), Operation Dove (OD),
Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) and the
International Solidarity Movement (ISM). He reviewed the situation of the
eviction orders and spoke of four nonviolent strategies of resistance:
1) legal
appeals to Israeli courts against the unjust evictions
2) the presence of
Internationals in the Firing Zone with a special focus on accompanying the
schools
3) a weekly Saturday nonviolent demonstration
4) most importantly; the villagers staying on the land—resistance by existence!
The International
groups worked out a weekly schedule to maintain a presence in the afflicted
area.

On Sunday, 8 December, two
Doves, two CPTers and two ISMers made an orientation and relationship-building
journey on foot through the zone visiting several villages. The headmaster in
Al-Fahkeit told of starting the school with tents in 2009 and then building the
existing school without permits. The Israeli army immediately issued a
demolition order which is still being fought in the courts. Now they are
building three new classrooms. Because of the frequent military harassment, the
villagers would really appreciate an international presence day and night. CPT
has committed to providing a Wednesday/Thursday presence in the area.

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