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Israel orders Palestinians in Nablus-area village to evacuate homes for military drills

Feb. 22, 2017 12:47 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 22, 2017 5:33 P.M.)
A Palestinian bedouin woman stands next to her destroyed tent in the village of Atouf in the Jordan Valley Photograph: Saif Dahlah/AFP/Getty Images
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces ordered Palestinians in the village of Khirbet Tana in the northern occupied West Bank district of Nablus to evacuate their homes on Wednesday to make room for Israeli army drills in the area.

Palestinian news agency Wafa quoted Aref Hanini, the mayor of the nearby village of Beit Furik, as saying that Israeli forces evacuated at least 30 Palestinian families from their homes from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Wafa reported that all of Khirbet Tana is located in Area C -- the more than 60 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli military and civil control. Khirbet Tana also lies in an Israeli-declared military training zone, known as a "firing zone," which rights groups say Israel intends to fully annex.

Communities that find themselves inside declared "firing zones" face a high risk of losing their livelihoods, homes, and schools.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma'an she would look into reports on the evacuations.

The village, which is home to primarily Bedouin Palestinians, saw 15 structures demolished by Israeli forces earlier in the year, including homes and the only school in the small village.

The village was demolished at least four times over the course of 2016, leaving scores of Bedouin Palestinians homeless, sparking condemnation from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), who warned that the village was at risk of “forcible transfer” by Israeli authorities.

"Palestinian communities like Khirbet Tana are amongst the most vulnerable in the West Bank," Robert Piper, the UN's humanitarian coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, said in a statement back in March 2016, after three separate demolitions in the first three months of that year left 87 of the village's 250 residents homeless.

In April last year, 34 more structures in the village were demolished in a single day, displacing 69 Palestinians, 29 of them children. Many of the demolished structures had been provided by donors as relief after earlier demolitions.

According to Wafa, demolitions in Khirbet Tana in 2016 targeted 150 structures, displacing a total of 214 people.

"The destruction of the relief provided to these households in these harsh winter conditions adds insult to injury,” Piper wrote in his statement at the time. "Destroying homes and livelihoods in order to place pressure on households to move places communities at risk of 'forcible transfer,' a grave breach of the laws of occupation."

Nearly 20 percent of the occupied West Bank has been declared "firing zones" since the 1970s, but according to the UN, recent research shows that nearly 80 percent of these areas are not in fact used for military training.

However, when military training does take place, Israel forces families to leave their homes for hours or days at a time until the drill is over.

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