84 Palestinians Flee West Bank Village Since July, UN Says, Calls Israel to Follow Int'l Law

12:00 Oct 3 2023 Masafer Yatta ( مسافر يطا )

84 Palestinians Flee West Bank Village Since July, UN Says, Calls Israel to Follow Int'l Law 84 Palestinians Flee West Bank Village Since July, UN Says, Calls Israel to Follow Int'l Law
Scene. Published by Haaretz

UCHA-oPT Map and Factsheet. Published by OCHA-oPT (United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs- Palestine)

The UN says that international humanitarian law forbids the forceful transference of citizens and called on Israel to halt the restrictions on movement, destruction of structures and the conducting of military exercises

by Hagar Shezaf for Haaretz
Oct 4, 2023 7:50 pm IDT

84 Palestinians have fled the southern West Bank village of Masafer Yatta since July, according to data maintained by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The exodus from the Palestinian village near Hebron follows a May 2022 ruling by Israel’s Supreme Court permitting the state to expel residents in order to hold military exercises. The residents who left the areas told the UN’s coordinator for humanitarian affairs agency that the reason for leaving was severe restrictions on their freedom of movement, imposed upon them by the military since the ruling. They said the situation has gotten even worse in recent months.

Until recently, approximately 1,000 people lived in Masafer Yatta. The Israeli army has not permitted the entry of vehicles not belonging to residents, has set up road blocks and has held several patrols in which they detained residents.

According to the UN, two schools in the area reported that 24 students had dropped out in wake of the restrictions. The report noted an incident in September, when military forces detained teachers on their way to school and threatened to confiscate their vehicles.

Haaretz reported a month ago that the army also confiscated residents’ cars while they were parked at their homes, in a step that constituted a ramping up of restrictions imposed upon them. During the past year, a nearby village called Khirbet Bir al-‘Eid was completely abandoned.

Since the ruling, the IDF has conducted several exercises in Masafer Yatta. One exercise involved the use of live fire despite the fact that people live in the area. After a bullet pierced the Khalat al-Daba school, the army said at the time there was “insufficient evidence” that the bullet had become lodged into the roof as a result of a firing exercise. However, it has not conducted any live-fire exercises in the area since that incident.

Nidal Younes, the head of the village council of Masafer Yatta, told Haaretz that families left the village recently because of the difficulty their children are having to reach school. “It has become very difficult for people to move around,” he bemoaned. “People want their children to go to school, and so some of the families left the so-called military zone.” He noted that the army patrol that detains families and closes the roads as the main factor pushing people to leave. He said violent settlers were also a cause of people leaving villages like Samari and Bir al-Eid.

The UN remarked that international humanitarian law forbids the forceful transference of citizens and called on Israel to halt the restrictions on movement, destruction of structures and the conducting of military exercises.

Thirteen Palestinian families displaced from Masafer Yatta>/b>

OCHA-oPT (United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs- Palestine)

Oct 3, 2023

Since early July 2023, thirteen Palestinian families comprising 84 people (44 children and 40 adults) have been displaced from Masafer Yatta, citing increased movement restrictions imposed by Israeli forces as the primary reason.

Located in the southern West Bank, Masafer Yatta’s 13 communities were, until recently, home to 215 Palestinian households, comprising about 1,150 people. The area is within the 18 per cent of the West Bank declared by the Israeli authorities as “firing zones” and allocated for military trainings. The people displaced in the past three months represent about 7 per cent of the population.

Over the years, and increasingly since May 2022, the Israeli authorities have imposed movement restrictions, confiscated property, demolished homes, and carried out military trainings in Masafer Yatta. Jointly, these practices have contributed to a coercive environment that has pressured residents to move out.

In the past three months, movement restrictions have further intensified. Operating from a newly established military base, Israeli forces now patrol the area more frequently, further restricting people’s movement and access to markets and basic services, as well as the shipment of fodder and other inputs for livestock, on which most families rely. They have additionally confiscated vehicles used by residents.

Two schools in the area report that 24 students have dropped out this year, including pupils whose families have left amid this coercive environment, and others who fear the unsafe journey to school. In one incident, in September, Israeli forces stopped teachers who were travelling to work and threatened to seize their vehicle if they used it again.

Since March 2023, one of Masafer Yatta’s communities, Khirbet Bir Al ‘Idd, has stood empty, following the displacement of the last two families. In that case, family members cited rising settler violence as the main reason for leaving. It is now one of the four Palestinian communities that have been completely emptied across the West Bank since 2022.

Humanitarian organizations and donors have been providing assistance to the communities in Masafer Yatta to meet their basic needs. However, over the years, the Israeli authorities have impediedsuch efforts by issuing demolition or ‘stop work’ orders, by confiscating vehicles and equipment, and by restricting physical access to land and the entry of humanitarian workers. An emergency shelter project initiated in May 2023 has had to stop following the confiscation of rehabilitation materials by the Israeli authorities.

The forcible transfer of civilians from, or within, the occupied Palestinian territory is prohibited under international humanitarian law. The United Nations has called upon the Israeli authorities to halt all coercive measures including movement restrictions, planned evictions, demolitions, and military training in residential areas.

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