AT TUWANI 24th of January 2013
There is an unreal atmosphere. While we walk with Tareq from Jinba to Al Mirkez, two of the Palestinian villages located in the so called “Firing Zone 918”, in the deepest south of the West Bank, It seems being into a war movie.
All around us, hundreds of soldiers are getting ready for the next war, running with guns in their hands, laying down aiming at the horizon, building foxholes, shouting to each other all the time.
While we walk slowly along the path among them, everyone ignores all four of us. As if both Palestinians and we do not exist. A few minutes earlier three Israeli soldiers approached our Palestinian friend telling him in Hebrew he was on a military square bashing zone and it was forbidden to stay there.
The question is that Tareq lives there. The problem is that the fields where they built the military tents belong to him and his neighbours. Now those fields look invaded by thousands of grasshoppers. All the sprouts have been destroyed by soldiers boots and cars.
We reach Al Mirkez, a small village built by tents and caves. We are welcomed by a small group of people who tell us the soldiers prohibited them to go grazing on their own land. Some shepherds are trying to work and live as if nothing is happening, trying to not change their habits because of the square bashings. Nevertheless the soldiers impede them to move freely and sometimes they beat their flocks. “They use the water from our wells and we are not allowed to let our flock drinking ” one of the shepherd says.
The soldiers’ tent has been built very close to us. Less than 50 meters from the village. There are two more in the proximity, one in the middle of a field near Jinba, the other one on a hillside in front of Al Mirkez. A few minutes after our arrival a big group of soldiers came down from the hilltop. On the other side of that hill there is another Palestinian village, Halaweh.
The most used word we heard in the last hours was “Majnunin”, an Arabic word meaning “Crazy”. The soldiers seem really crazy, especially how they meticulously absolve their “duties”. To our Palestinian hosts, simple people strongly connected to their land, those “duties” seem very senseless.
Inhabitants of Jinba, Al Mirkez, and Halaweh are worried. Since Monday the Israeli Army encamped in this area is training very close to their homes and fields. They tell us this is not the first time: the last August 7,seventy soldiers reached Jinba in the morning. They gathered the inhabitants in one place and checked identity cards. Then they forced all the doors and searched all the houses, one by one. When they left, after one hour and a half, the Palestinian got back to their homes where they found everything upside down and a lot of damaged things.
This is instead the first time they see so many soldiers, so many weapons. This atmosphere opens old scars, reminds them old and new fears.
In 1999 Israeli army evicted the Palestinians living in the “Firing Zone 918” and destroyed their properties. At that time Palestinians appealed to the Israeli HIgh Court of Justice that sentenced with a temporary verdict, the permission to return to their lands. In addition, it forbade the expulsion of the population at the hand of Israeli Army until the final decision.
In April 2012 the Supreme Court started to re-examine the case. On July 19 2012 the Israeli Government, following the Department of Defence advice, presented to the Court a detailed notice affirming the inhabitants of 8 out of 12 villages inside the “Firing zone 918” (Isfey, Al Majaz, At Tabban, Al Fakheit, Halaweh, Mirkez, Jinba and Kharrouba) are not “permanent residents” and they have no right to live there. On August 7 2012, the Court established that this notice caused a “change in the normative situation” and consequently the specific requests “were no more applicable”.
On January 16 2013, a new appeal on behalf of the Palestinian residents has been presented to the Supreme Court by ACRI (Association for Civil Rights in Israel). The Court established that Israeli State has to answer to this petition within 60 days, following by the suspension of Palestinians eviction.
We walk back to Jinba at the sunset, in order to spend the night there. Tareq arranged two beds for us in his cave that he calls “the Hotel” because of his beauty without comparison.
We are just sat when some kids call us telling that the soldiers are very close to the village. We quickly get out from the “Hotel” and we see the soldiers twenty meters far from us.
Tareq sets up a fire, invites a neighbour and tells his wives to make some pop-corn. It seems we are inside a war movie but the Palestinians are just spectators. After a few minutes two soldiers approached our host telling him not to be worried. They will be close to the village only for ten minutes and then they will return to their tents on his fields. Tareq doesn’t say a word offering pop-corn to the soldiers. They refuse it.