A UN official on Thursday called on Israel to halt demolitions, military activities and other increasingly coercive measures in the villages of Masafer Yatta , south of Hebron in the West Bank, and allow its residents to remain in their homes in safety and dignity.
Acting United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for the Palestinian Territories Yvonne Healy said in a statement that the humanitarian community stands ready to provide assistance to the residents of Masafer Yatta, but the Israeli authorities must fulfill their obligations to protect the population in accordance with international law.
The Israeli Supreme Court ruled last May to approve the army’s recommendation to forcibly transfer eight villages in Masafer Yatta, reasoning that its residents “failed to prove” their claim that they were permanent residents there before declaring it a military training area for the army.
The area witnesses almost daily protests by local residents and Israeli and foreign peace activists.
Al-Mosafer residents say that the Israeli authorities want to “completely evacuate and close the area and turn it into military training areas under the name of shooting range 918, not caring about the forced displacement of residents.”
The area of â€‹â€‹the villages threatened with eviction is estimated at about 30,000 dunams (a dunam is 1,000 square metres) and inhabited by more than 2,000 people, including women and children.
Healy pointed out that since the court´s decision, "the pressure on the people of the communities in Masafer Yatta to leave their homes has increased significantly to make way for the military exercises."
Over the past weeks, the homes of dozens of people in the area were demolished, and in some cases, for the third time in less than a year, while new demolition orders were issued during the past two weeks, and a military exercise was recently launched near residential areas, and the fear of these residents, according to Healy.
She noted the direct impact of any demolitions on the lives and livelihoods of these people, as these measures may amount to "violations of human rights, including forced evictions and exposing people to the risk of forcible transfer, which constitutes a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention."
Israel has classified about 38 localities inhabited by more than 5,000 Palestinians as "firing zones", which constitute 18% of the area of â€‹â€‹the West Bank, according to the United Nations Coordination Office in Palestine.