by Isra Ghourani

05/15/19 (WAFA) – In the early morning hours, the residents of Humsa al-Fawqa village, in the northern Jordan Valley, carry few supplies as they leave their homes by foot after being ordered to evacuate their tent encampments, to make room for Israeli military exercises.

This scene brings to mind the Nakba, Arabic for catastrophe, a term used to refer to the tragedy that befell the Palestinian people in 1948, whereby the Palestinian people lost their homeland as Israel was created on their land and in their houses, after they were forcibly expelled, or fled, from their homes and became refugees.

The residents of Humsa al-Fawqa are inflicted with the tragedy of being forced to leave there, on a daily basis, as a result of Israeli occupation policies aimed to displace them.

Driving along the road to Humsa al-Fawqa, one would see gun-toting Israeli troops heading to their training sites, and hear the sound of shells, fired by tanks, resonating in the area.

An officer of the so-called Israeli Civil Administration, a name which Israel gives to the body administering its military occupation of the West Bank, patrols the area to evacuate all residents who have left behind their wheat-cultivated farmlands to be used as a shooting range by the Israeli military. Driving a military vehicle, the officer intercepts and prevents us for proceeding to Humsa, threatening to confiscate our car if we do so.

As the military arrives for drills, 15 families, composed of 98 members, including 57 children, are forced to abandon their homes for several hours and go to nearby mountains and pastures.

Yasser Abu Kbash, a resident who left the area in the early morning hours, said he and his family members left their tent encampment and, together with other residents, to the open fields, forced to stay under the blistering summer sun and heat. The Jordan Valley is one of the hottest areas of the region, in summer.

“When we left, we took only very little of the supplies leaving behind our livestock and land planted with wheat and barley,” he said, expressing concern that the community which relies on herding and farming for their livelihood would suffer considerable material losses, as a result of the military exercises.

Elaborating on his losses two years ago, Abu Kbash points out that Israeli artillery shells hit his 70-dunam wheat fields, setting them ablaze. In addition, a large number of his cattle suffered from a deadly plague and perished after he could not tend to them.

Aref Daraghmeh, a local human rights activist, points out that the areas where the population is at the greatest risk of displacement, as a result of military drills are al-Ras al-Ahmar, Humsa al-Fawqa, Wadi al-Maleh and Khirbet Ibzeiq. “Over 120 families have been subject to constant displacement, over the past five years,” he said.

The residents endure tremendous hardship as a result of remaining outdoors, away from their tents for several hours, particularly in the hot climate conditions, and having to fast in the Muslim month of Ramadan. Upon their return, families find remnants of unexploded artillery shells which pose a serious threat to them. Over the last four years, five residents were killed, as a result of these remnants, and several others were shot by bullets during the drills.

Daraghmeh explains that Israel utilizes military drills in the northern Jordan Valley as a pretext to forcefully displace Palestinian families living there, as part of an ethnic cleansing policy aimed at seizing their lands.

“Israeli occupation authorities intentionally conduct trainings during the planting and harvesting seasons, banning Palestinian farmers from planting their crops. In the harvesting season, artillery shells are fired towards wheat-cultivated farmlands, setting them ablaze. Israeli occupation authorities also exploit extreme weather conditions, both in summer and winter, to conduct drills and displace the residents, compounding their hardships,” he remarked.

Several days ago, harvesting machines were seen cultivating the crops. However, today, they sit idle due to the Israeli measures. Farmers fear their crops will be ruined before they are allowed to harvest them.

Daraghmeh stresses that conducting military drills in residential areas is a contravention of international law. However, in utter disregard for such laws, Israel conducts military drills in these areas, causing substantial damages for the residents and their property.

The Israeli military has started to systematically designate various farming and residential communities as closed military zones, placing dozens of concrete roadblocks around these communities; a policy which Daraghmeh says is used to steal Palestinian land.

Israel utilizes military drills, in addition to other measures taken under the guise of security, as a means to seize Palestinian land and build settlements, in violation of an international law which establishes that the occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.

According to Daraghmeh, Israeli occupation authorities have seized thousands of dunams of Palestinian land, particularly along the West Bank’s eastern frontier with Jordan.

(edited for the IMEMC by c h r i s @ i m e m c . o r g)

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