On April 18, the tiny Palestinian village of Aqaba, south-east of Jenin, received a new visitation from Asher, the local boss of the Israeli army’s ‘Civil Administration’.

Aqaba villagers have long come to dread Asher’s visits. On one past occasion, he had come to decree that the village’s mosque and kindergarten were ‘illegally built’ and had to be pulled down – a threat removed only after half a year of struggle.

This time around, Asher came with expulsion orders for people. Three Aqaba families – twenty seven adults and children in all – were handed orders stating: ‘You are staying illegally in a closed zone, proclaimed according to article 70 of the Judea and Samaria security ordinance 378 of 1970. You are hereby ordered to vacate said closed zone within 72 hours. Failure to heed this order may result in your removal by force and the confiscation of your livestock, and you may be held accountable to refund the army’s expenses for said removal.’ 

Nobody knows with certainty how long the village of Aqaba had been declared ‘a closed zone’ according to occupation law. Aqaba has the bad fortune to be on the edge of the Jordan Valley, an area earmarked for annexation to Israel as far back as the Alon Plan of the early 1970’s which still very much guides the policies of the present government.

The intended annexation of the Jordan Valley appeared in a map published just last Friday (April 15, 2005) on the front page of Yediot Aharonot, reportedly reflecting the territorial ambitions of the Sharon Government. Over the decades, its inhabitants endured numerous acts of harassment by the Israeli military, evidently aimed at making them go away ‘voluntarily’.