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Campaign for the abolition of "Firing Zone 918" in South Hebron Hills

Vulnerable communities in area C remain dependent on humanitarian assistance: Firing Zone 918

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From the HUMANITARIAN MONITOR MONTHLY REPORT, December 2012 by United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs occupied Palestinian territory.

Communities in Area C which are not recognized officially by the Israeli authorities will not benefit from the recently approved projects, and therefore remain dependent on the provision of humanitarian assistance. Communities in Masafer Yatta, an area in the southeastern hills of Hebron, are an example of this situation. The area is home to approximately 1,700 Palestinians living in 19 separate hamlets. In the 1970s, the majority of the area, where 12 of the 19 hamlets were located, was designated by the IDF as a closed military area for training, named Firing Zone 918. As a result, the Palestinian residents of the area have been at continued risk of displacement. Their living conditions have also been undermined by systematic intimidation by settlers living nearby, as well as by restrictions on their movement and access imposed by the Israeli military to support the settler population in the area.

In 1999, most of the Palestinian residents were evicted by the Israeli military. A few months later, however, following a temporary injunction issued by the Israeli High Court of Justice (HCJ), the residents were allowed to return to their homes, pending a final ruling on the case. In a response to the HCJ submitted in July 2012 in the context of the same petition, the Israeli authorities called for the permanent evacuation from the area of eight of the 12 communities.

An assessment completed by OCHA in October 2012 found that approximately 1,000 people (half of them children) were living in these eight communities, who rely on herding as their primary source of livelihood (approx. 12,500 heads of livestock). The assessment highlighted the restrictions on self-development faced by these communities and consequently, the critical role of international assistance in ensuring that their basic needs, including for shelter and water, are met. However, the ICA has issued demolition orders against basic residential and livelihood-related structures and essential infrastructure provided by humanitarian organizations and funded by international donors in support of these communities:

  • ƒShelters: about 35 percent of the residential tents and 30 percent of the animal tents documented in the communities were provided or funded by humanitarian organizations and international donors. There are demolition orders pending against at least 50 residential and animal structures.
  • ƒWater: rain water is harvested in 220 cisterns,70 percent of which were funded by donors. Demolition orders have been issued against at least 25 cisterns. The WASH cluster also supports basic water needs through a coordinated water tankering program.
  • ƒElectricity: five of the communities were issued with wind turbines and solar cells, funded by international donors and generating electricity for lighting during the night. All of these facilities have received so-called Stop Work orders from the ICA.
  • ƒSchools: there is one school in the area, consisting of two separate buildings (three and four classrooms respectively) located in two communities. The school, which was funded by humanitarian agencies and international donors, has also received Stop Work orders.
  • ƒHealth services: there is one primary health care clinic (a basic one-room concrete and zinc structure) which is supported by humanitarian agencies. It has also received a Stop Work order.

In addition, since November 2012, the UN has provided food assistance to these communities as part of a program targeting Area C herders.

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