Jerusalem24 – B’Tselem – In the morning hours of Sunday, 2 January 2022, dozens of tanks, bulldozers and military trucks arrived at the farmlands of Khirbet Ibziq in the Jordan Valley. Under the guise of military training, still underway today, tanks and bulldozers destroyed hundreds of dunams of wheat and barley crops as well as other fields that had been plowed in preparation for sowing. Bulldozers also created dirt mounds on farmlands and destroyed farming access roads, while soldiers fired tank shells just several hundred meters away from community homes.
Several days earlier, the military handed six families in the community with a total of 35 members, including 17 minors, orders to evacuate on Sunday at 8:00 A.M. The orders noted the families would not be able to return to their homes until 3:00 A.M. This was the sixth time orders like these have been given to community members since the beginning of December. This time, the families refused to leave and remained in their homes until the early afternoon, at which point, Civil Administration personnel and soldiers arrived and forced the families out of their homes. They had to walk for about six kilometers and stay with relatives until 3:00 A.M., when they returned home. The “training,” however, continued after they returned.
On Tuesday, 4 January 2022, as the military was destroying the community’s fields, Civil Administration personnel returned to destroy tents used as residences by three families with a total of 16 members, six of them minors. The families were forced out of their homes several days earlier. The Civil Administration destroyed these tents before, on 28 December 2021, but they have been rebuilt since, with the help of ACTED. When the families noticed the Civil Administration and soldiers arriving, they hurriedly took down the tents and hid them, but the forces managed to find and destroy them. The forces also damaged eight tents used as sheep pens, a tent used for storing animal feed, an outdoor oven, a chicken coop, feeding and watering troughs and animal feed.
Israel’s official stance is that the military must train in that specific area and that this need unquestionably trumps the rights and needs of community residents, who, according to Israel, should not be there in the first place as the area has been declared a “firing zone.” These, however, are false claims meant to hide Israel’s long-term goals. The oppression of this community, which includes frequent evacuations, repeated house demolitions and the destruction of farm fields, does not occur in a void. It is meant to drive residents out of their homes and fields for good and prevent any sort of Palestinian development in the area, in order to allow Israel to tighten its grip on the area and use its resources for its own benefit.
This is just one of many examples of the way Israel’s apartheid regime operates in its endeavor to preserve Jewish supremacy in the entire area under its control, while trampling Palestinians from some of the poorest communities in the area.
In a testimony she gave B’Tselem field researcher ‘‘Aref Daraghmeh on 27 December 2021, Siham Hrub, 45, a mother of six from Khirbet Ibziq, said:
Sometimes, they hurry us so much to leave that we don’t have enough time to feed the livestock or close the pens properly, so they don’t run off. Civil Administration people come and lead us out of the house as if we were a herd of cows. At night, away from home, we can’t sleep at all, worrying about the livestock and the property we left behind. Our biggest fear is that the military will leave behind explosives, and something will blow up. This training isn’t temporary. They keep stopping and starting up again.
Sometimes, we go back home at night. It’s very dark. You can’t see anything on the way, and it’s very cold. We stop every few meters, wait for each other, make sure no one’s lost. When we get home, we check up on the houses and the livestock right away.
Our lives are intolerable, but what else can we do? That’s the occupation. They want us to leave our land. Where will we go? We have no other livelihood. In other places in the world, tanks don’t train near people’s homes. We want to live like everyone else in the world.
Saleh Suaftah, 31, from Bardalah, spoke about what happened during a previous forced removal:
We went to our land to harvest the crop on 15 December 2021. We saw dozens of tanks and military vehicles from a distance. I approached carefully and saw the damage they had inflicted. The heavy equipment drove over our crops and destroyed the corn and fava beans, the irrigation system and the farming access roads. They drove over the fields deliberately instead of using existing roads and destroyed our hope.
The training in the area has continued ever since then. We sow these lands to make a living, and the military always comes and destroys everything this time of the year on purpose. In the summer, when everything is arid and you can’t grow anything here, they don’t come to train here at all.