Military manoeuvres in Masafer Yatta (by EA Theresa)

Jinba is a town in the Masafer Yatta area of the South Hebron Hills and was once on the ancient trade route between Beersheva and Jericho. There are many remains of old buildings and caves in the area from when the population was much larger than the present 65 residents. The village is served by a mobile health clinic and a school for lower grades, with older children going to nearby Khirbet al Fakheit.

Photo: EAPPI/T.Mansbridge

Photo: EAPPI/T.Mansbridge

In the early 1980s approximately 30,000 dunams (around 7,500 acres) in the South Hebron Hills, including 12 villages with approximately 1,700 residents, were designated by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) as a closed military area for training purposes. In 1999 the Israeli military expelled over 700 residents and destroyed homes and other property. In 2000 the Israeli High Court of Justice allowed the residents to return. Since then they have had to face demolitions of homes and infrastructure.

New petitions for the residents were filed in January 2013 and in September last year the High Court decided that the army should mediate with the residents.

For the last two nights in the larger town of Yatta, military exercises could be heard coming from the direction of Jinba, and today a resident of Jinba showed us around the area explaining the damage done to approximately 130 dunams (around 32 acres) of his family’s land by around 300 soldiers over the last week or so.

A small exercise was still taking place today:

Military 2

Photo: EAPPI/T.Mansbridge

During the exercises the soldiers had camped in the fields – usually on those not already harvested – often digging dug-outs into them:

Military 3

Photo: EAPPI/T.Mansbridge

They had also eaten in the fields leaving their rubbish behind:

Military 4

Photo: EAPPI/T.Mansbridge

And they had driven their jeeps through the crops and marched through them:

Military 5

Photo: EAPPI/T.Mansbridge

Residents reported to EAs that the army had entered the village on several occasions including at least once at night to conduct exercises between the houses.

On one occasion they had searched all the houses for army food as they accused the villagers of stealing army rations. They did not find any. The children were particularly upset by these incursions into their homes. For most school age children this is the period of the end of school year exams.

One young man was arrested, and one boy – a 22-year-old and a 12-year-old – on two separate occasions. They had looked into a military tent put up on their family’s land and were detained for this reason for most of the day. They had their hands tied together and their feet. The older one was kicked. And they were taken to the main military tent. They were eventually released.

And today the Israeli District Commanding Officer came to visit Jinba, but not to discuss the damage caused by the military but to view the area with regards to the demolition orders.

The families living here work hard to make a living from the land, have to buy in water at great cost of money, time and effort and have little electricity from generators.

The additional stress of military exercises on their land add to their burden of living on it.