AT-TUWANI: Military training in the South Hebron Hills

December 10, 2004

AT-TUWANI: Military training in the South Hebron Hills

On Tuesday, December 7 2004, the Israeli military engaged in military
training exercises in the hills around At-Tuwani, Tuba and, Al-Mufaquara.
According to a Palestinian from At-Tuwani, this was the first time that the
military has trained that close to the village. The exercises began without
warning, leaving Palestinian residents feeling scared and endangered.

At 8:00 am a shepherd from At-Tuwani discovered a suspicious object on a
hill near his village. Palestinians tending the land nearby summoned CPTers
Kristin Anderson and Diane Janzen and an Operation Dove member to the area.
On their way to the object, the group passed several camouflaged Israeli
soldiers with weapons and binoculars who were positioned on the ground. The
soldiers confirmed that they were taking part in a military training
exercise, and when questioned about why the exercise was being carried out
in a civilian area, the soldiers said that the location was a military
training area. The soldiers then said that the Operation Dove member should
stop taking pictures or he would have problems. ( An area south of
At-Tuwani is part of the Israeli military Fire Zone 918.The Israeli
military is currently proposing to evacuate the Palestinians living in the
southern part of this Fire Zone, but not in the northern part near Tuba and
At-Tuwani. The proposal for the evacuation is under dispute in the Israeli
High Court.)

The internationals went with villagers to the location of suspicious object
and found it wedged upright between rocks. The object consisted of a black
plastic tube (three feet in length and four inches in diameter) connected by
wires to a small black box that had several dials on it. The Palestinian
landowner called the Israeli police while the group waited at a distance for
them to arrive. The shepherd and two boys continually guided the sheep away
from the area.

Upon arrival, plain-clothes policemen ordered the group to retreat another
200 meters, saying, "It was not safe and that it could be a bomb." A "bomb
squad" arrived shortly after, briefly inspected the object and left. The
landowner who was in communication with the police reported that the "bomb
squad" comprised not police but military personnel, who said the object was
part of a military training exercise that began the previous evening and
would end that night. The gathered Palestinians then left the area to
continue working and the internationals continued to observe military

Throughout the morning and into the afternoon, three military helicopters
hovered and landed on hilltops near At Tuwani. Loud explosions could be
heard from numerous directions. F-16s flew through the sky doing maneuvers
and dropping flares.

The disruption caused by the military exercises forced shepherds to change
where they took their sheep and farmers to alter where they plowed. The
explosions also scared children on their way home from school.