Jerusalem24– The Israeli army has conducted an “intelligence mapping” operation in Masafer Yatta for the second consecutive weekend. The practice was supposedly discontinued in 2021.
Hundreds of residents from eight communities in Masafer Yatta slated for expulsion from their lands were targeted by the operation, in what they see as a prelude to their imminent expulsion.
The Israeli military delivered an administrative order to the residents declaring the land seizure, which according to the order “is for military purposes.”
According to local activist Basil Adra the administrative order enables the expulsion of the over 1,000 residents of the south Hebron hills “any day.”
The Israeli military also announced it would be conducting military drills including live firing on the lands of Masafer Yatta over the next three days.
Adra told Jerusalem24 that residents didn’t know what they were going to do.
Locals said soldiers deployed across the communities over the weekend, photographing residents – including children – and residents’ identity cards, and taking note of the number of inhabitants in each household, as well as car ownership.
During the raids, Israeli soldiers demand all the inhabitants of the house be woken up, including young children, and gathered in one room in the house to be photographed by the army.
According to UN figures, these invasions occurred more than 200 times per month until July 2021 when the Israeli military announced it would put the practice on hold after a joint report by Israeli NGOs Yesh Din, Breaking the Silence, and Physicians for Human Rights Israel exposed the severe psychological impact of the raids on the families and on Palestinian society.
The Israeli Supreme Court ruled on 4 May that over 1,000 residents of the region could be evicted after a 23-year-long legal battle. Lawyers, human rights organizations, and the United Nations have warned that the evictions could constitute a war crime.
If an eviction is imminent as the residents fear, the move would go against the request of US officials who specifically asked Israel to refrain from any actions in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem that could create tensions ahead of President Biden’s visit to the Middle East in mid-July.
US members of Congress have sent several letters to Secretary of State Antony Blinken asking the Biden administration to pressure Israel into stopping the expulsions.