AT-TUWANI: Military training in the South Hebron Hills

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CPTnet
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December 10, 2004
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<P>AT-TUWANI: Military training in the South Hebron Hills
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<P><P>On Tuesday, December 7 2004, the Israeli military engaged in military
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training exercises in the hills around At-Tuwani, Tuba and, Al-Mufaquara.
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According to a Palestinian from At-Tuwani, this was the first time that the
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military has trained that close to the village. The exercises began without
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warning, leaving Palestinian residents feeling scared and endangered.
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<P>At 8:00 am a shepherd from At-Tuwani discovered a suspicious object on a
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hill near his village. Palestinians tending the land nearby summoned CPTers
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Kristin Anderson and Diane Janzen and an Operation Dove member to the area.
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On their way to the object, the group passed several camouflaged Israeli
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soldiers with weapons and binoculars who were positioned on the ground. The
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soldiers confirmed that they were taking part in a military training
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exercise, and when questioned about why the exercise was being carried out
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in a civilian area, the soldiers said that the location was a military
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training area. The soldiers then said that the Operation Dove member should
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stop taking pictures or he would have problems. ( An area south of
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At-Tuwani is part of the Israeli military Fire Zone 918.The Israeli
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military is currently proposing to evacuate the Palestinians living in the
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southern part of this Fire Zone, but not in the northern part near Tuba and
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At-Tuwani. The proposal for the evacuation is under dispute in the Israeli
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High Court.)
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<P>The internationals went with villagers to the location of suspicious object
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and found it wedged upright between rocks. The object consisted of a black
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plastic tube (three feet in length and four inches in diameter) connected by
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wires to a small black box that had several dials on it. The Palestinian
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landowner called the Israeli police while the group waited at a distance for
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them to arrive. The shepherd and two boys continually guided the sheep away
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from the area.
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<P>Upon arrival, plain-clothes policemen ordered the group to retreat another
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200 meters, saying, &quot;It was not safe and that it could be a bomb.&quot; A &quot;bomb
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squad&quot; arrived shortly after, briefly inspected the object and left. The
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landowner who was in communication with the police reported that the &quot;bomb
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squad&quot; comprised not police but military personnel, who said the object was
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part of a military training exercise that began the previous evening and
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would end that night. The gathered Palestinians then left the area to
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continue working and the internationals continued to observe military
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activity.
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<P>Throughout the morning and into the afternoon, three military helicopters
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hovered and landed on hilltops near At Tuwani. Loud explosions could be
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heard from numerous directions. F-16s flew through the sky doing maneuvers
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and dropping flares.
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<P>The disruption caused by the military exercises forced shepherds to change
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where they took their sheep and farmers to alter where they plowed. The
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explosions also scared children on their way home from school.
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