The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) petitioned the High Court of Justice today (Thursday) on behalf of Walid and Yasser Abu al-Kabash, Palestinian shepherds from Khirbet Humsa in the Jordan Valley, asking the Court to order the prevention of evictions for the purpose of military exercises during the month of Ramadan and in the beginning of Eid al-Fitr.
Over the past few years, the army has been implementing a policy of evicting herding communities in the Jordan Valley, who reside in an area designated since the 1970s as Firing Zone 903. The evictions are intended to allow the IDF to conduct live-fire exercises, during which military forces maneuver around the grazing areas and even in close proximity to the residences of the local Palestinian communities.
About a week ago, at the beginning of the Ramadan fast, the 98 residents of Khirbet Humsa, among them 56 children, were issued eviction orders instructing them to leave their homes for three days and two nights on each week of Ramadan and to find an alternative residence. Consequently, the petitioners, their families and their neighboring communities found themselves, in the midst of Ramadan, sleeping under the stars with no roof over their heads and no place to cook the holiday meals.
The petition, filed by Atty. Roni Pelli, argues that the conduct of the head of Central Command contravenes the most basic responsibilities of the military commander under international law, which applies to the occupied territory. Despite the fact that the communities are also evicted for the nighttime, the army does not provide them with an alternative residence and they are forced to sleep outside in a nearby wadi.
The expulsions impair the petitioners' ability to herd their sheep, thereby damaging their livelihood. This is all the more difficult in the month of Ramadan, during which the petitioners are fasting from dawn to dusk. Due to their eviction, the petitioners are unable to cook the Iftar meal, which breaks the fast at the end of the day. After spending an entire day outside in the heat, with no food and water, they are forced to make do with a cold supper.
According to the petition, “the eviction of the petitioners and their families on the month of Ramadan is neither reasonable nor proportional. Military exercises are not a force majeure. Their timing depends on planning by military authorities and does not hinge upon external circumstances. The decision to evict the petitioners for the purpose of military exercises during the Ramadan fast, of all times, indicates that this is an arbitrary decision and is therefore unreasonable.”
Atty. Roni Pelli (ACRI): “The army has already admitted to using these exercises to try to force Palestinians in the Jordan Valley to abandon the place. As if the usual harassment was not enough, now they went even further and decided to hurt the residents during their most important religious period and when they are fasting. We hope that the Court will remind the army that people's lives are at stake here.”
update: On May 22, 2019, the High Court dismissed the petition outright, stating that the petitioners do not have any property rights to the land and that construction on the site is unregulated.