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At a 1979 meeting of Israel’s “Ministerial Committee for Settlement Matters in the Judea and Samaria area,” created in 1972 for the purpose of establishing new settlements in the West Bank, chairman of the committee Ariel Sharon said of the “firing zones” he moved to create in 1967, “They were all aimed at a single goal, which was to create the option of Jewish settlement in the area. … These firing zones were seized for a single purpose, which was to be our land reserves for settlement.”
In the 1980s, Israel classified most of Masafer Yatta, an area in the south Hebron Hills, as a closed “firing zone,” Firing Zone 918, for military training purposes.
In 1999 Israeli forces expelled all the residents in Masafer Yatta on the grounds that they were living there “illegally” and were not permanent residents, despite most residents having documents proving their ownership of their lands.
A few months after the expulsion, they were permitted to return “temporarily” after an interim injunction from an Israeli court, as they fought for their right to remain on their lands. They suffered under IDF training, the noise of helicopters and tanks and presence of troops on the ground, disrupted access to grazing areas, destruction of crops, anxiety and fear among children and adults, blocked roads, denial of water and electricity. But they were home.
And then in May 2022, more than 20 years after the case began, the Supreme Court in Jerusalem ruled that the residents of Masafer Yassa could be expelled.
Ali Awad, activist and journalist and resident of the village of Tuba in Masafer Yatta talked to Gil Halsted about what is happening now. Awad write for 972 Magazine and posts often on Instagram as ali_awad98.