The United Nations had said, Thursday 7 July, that the forced eviction of Palestinians from the Masafer Yatta area in the south of the West Bank may constitute a war crime.
According to a statement issued by the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), “(t) forcible transfer of civilians from, or within, the oPt [occupied Palestinian territories] is absolutely prohibited under international humanitarian Law. Occupation authorities should halt all coercive measures including planned evictions, demolitions, and military training in residential areas.”
“Forced evictions resulting in displacement could amount to forcible transfer, which is a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention and thus a war crime”, the same statement read.
“The continued evictions of Palestinians and settlement expansion during fifty-five years of occupation alters the reality on the ground, contrary to international humanitarian law and the legally binding resolutions of the United Nations Security Council”, the statement continued.
The statement indicated that 215 Palestinian families, or 1150 individuals including 569 children, currently live in the Masafer Yatta area, where they face continuous threats to demolish their homes, in addition to violence from settlers.
As the UN reports, “in addition to the threat of their homes being demolished, communities also face violence from settlers residing in a nearby outpost, who have blocked roads in the area, attacked herders, and set haystacks and grazing areas on fire, undermining their physical security, negatively affecting mental and psycho-social health, lowering their standard of living, and increasing the dependence on humanitarian aid.”
Providing historical context, the OCHA’s statement reported that “(i)n the 1980s, Occupation authorities designated a part of Masafer Yatta in the South Hebron Hills as ’Firing Zone 918’, a closed military zone. Since this declaration, residents have been at risk of forced eviction, demolition, and forcible transfer. The two villages of Khirbet Sarura and Kharoubeh no longer exist after their homes were demolished.”
In 1999, Israeli occupation authorities issued eviction orders to approximately 700 Masafer Yatta residents, on the basis that they “reside in an illegal firing area.”
Masafer Yatta communities have been subject to several waves of demolitions and threats of demolition since 1999, including villages outside the official firing zone.
On 4 May 2022, Occupation’s Supreme Court ruled that “there are no legal obstacles to implementing the plans to expel the Palestinian residents of Masafer Yatta in order to allow military training,” thereby exposing the Palestinian residing there to an increased threat of forced eviction and displacement.