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Israel orders Palestinian families in Jordan Valley to evacuate homes for military drills

March 26, 2017 4:06 P.M. (Updated: March 26, 2017 10:59 P.M.)
Bedouin shepherds walk past tents set up in the Jordan Valley near the West Bank city of Jericho. (AFP/File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces notified several Palestinian families in the northern Jordan Valley region of the occupied West Bank on Sunday that they would have to evacuate their homes on Wednesday to make way for Israeli military training exercises, official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported.

Aref Daraghmeh, who monitors settlement activities and Israeli violations, told Wafa that Israeli forces ordered more than 10 Palestinian families in the Ras al-Ahmar area northeast of Tubas to leave their homes starting at 5 p.m. Wednesday until 5 a.m. on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Israeli media reported on Sunday that the Israeli army had announced that military drills were set to take place in several areas of the occupied West Bank this week between Sunday and Thursday.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma'an they were looking into reports.

Rights groups have said that Israeli military training zones, known as a "firing zones," are used as a pretext to fully annex portions of the occupied West Bank.

Nearly 20 percent of the occupied West Bank has been declared "firing zones" since the 1970s, but according to the UN, 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.

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

Forming a third of the occupied West Bank, with 88 percent of its land classified as Area C -- under full Israeli military control -- the Jordan Valley has long been a strategic area of land unlikely to return to Palestinians following Israel's occupation in 1967.
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