Petitioners claim the drills are conducted in violation of High Court order; IDF spokesman: Exercises were held in firing zones, not in farmlands, and no damage was caused.
By Amira Hass, Jan.29, 2013
The army has been carrying out training exercises for about a week near three Palestinian villages in south Hebron, in violation of a High Court of Justice order that also forbids the villagers’ eviction from their homes, said local farmers backed by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.
The farmers of a-Tabban, Mirkez and Jinba reported that military drills in a “firing zone” adjacent to their villages started last Monday with no warning, damaging their fields, pasture areas and wells.
ACRI on Monday petitioned the High Court on the farmers’ behalf to stop the Israel Defense Forces from “holding drills that could hinder the petitioners and their families in farming their lands, taking their herds to pasture and carrying on with their normal life.”
The petitioners also asked the court to compel the IDF and defense minister to enforce the interim injunction issued on January 16, which forbade the farmers’ eviction, and to fine the army and defense minister for contempt of court.
The farmers said military vehicles trampled their cultivated fields during the drills and dug trenches, making it difficult for them to access their grazing lands and fields and even to enter the villages.
They also said the shooting near their homes was frightening the residents, especially the children.
“The fields in which the military training is conducted have just been sown with barley, wheat and other crops,” ACRI’s petition says. “The crops were supposed to provide the farmers’ (meager ) livelihood in the coming year and serve as their main food source. It was also meant to feed the sheep herds, another source of the farmers’ livelihood.”
The IDF spokesman said in response that the exercises were being carried out lawfully in an area declared as “firing zone 918″ and not in farmlands. He said no firearms were used, no trenches were dug near the residents’ homes and no damage was caused to the fields and water holes.
Since the drills began last week, ACRI’s attorneys have twice asked the state prosecution to stop the infringement on the residents’ lives. Hadash MK Dov Khenin sent an urgent request to Defense Minister Ehud Barak to stop the damaging drills and compensate the villagers.
When the three requests went unanswered, ACRI asked the High Court to find the army and Barak in contempt of court.
Last summer Barak issued instructions to evacuate eight other villages in the area to enable the military exercises. The order is pending a High Court of Justice ruling.