Sheep don’t like machine guns (or tanks, or helicopters)

By EA Paul, Jordan Valley.

Hanif, aged 45, is a shepherd in the north of the Jordan Valley in occupied Palestine. He states that in the last 15 years, six Palestinians from near his village have been killed or seriously injured as a result of Israeli military training.

“You see that mountain over there, it is empty. Why don’‘t the Israeli military train over there?  Instead, they train right here, next to our houses just to frighten the Palestinian communities and get us to move away.”

280116. Occupied Palestine, North Jordan Valley, Khirbet Yarza. Local resident and farmer - Hanif . Photo EAPPI. P Longden

Local resident and farmer Hanif [Photo: EAPPI/P Longden]

The State of Israel has militarily occupied Palestine since the six day war in June 1967. Almost fifty years later, Israel continues to occupy Palestine and shows no sign of withdrawing, despite condemnation by the international community and numerous UN resolutions.

North Jordan Valley, Khirbet Yarza. Israeli military vehicle tracks and grazing Palestinian sheep .

Israeli military vehicle tracks and grazing sheep [EAPPI/P.Longden]

Palestinian villagers report that the Israeli army uses a number to tactics to harass and intimidate them with a view to getting them to leave. It is of note that a Knesset subcommittee indicated that one object of the Israeli military training in the Jordan Valley is to force out local Palestinians.

For example, families are issued with military orders to evacuate their homes between certain hours and on certain dates on the pretext of ensuring their safety whilst the Israeli army conducts military exercises in the area. No such orders are issued to the half a million Israeli citizens living in illegal settlements in occupied Palestine.

“The army train behind that ridge not here. The only ask us to move [with military orders] to try and get us Palestinians to clear from the land so they [the Israelis] can take it over.”

This is a quote from elderly Palestinian village leader, too afraid of retaliation from the Israeli military to allow his name or photo to be used in this report.

North Jordan Valley, Khirbet Yarza. Palestinian resident shows cartridge case found adjacent to his house.

A Palestinian villager shows a cartridge case found next to his house [EAPPI/P.Longden]

One Palestinian family reported that they now seek shelter in a nearby cave whenever Israeli soldiers fire live ammunition.

On another visit we made to a Palestinian village, I saw vehicle tracks consistent with a military tank in the driveway of each house. Villagers reported that a single Israeli military tank had visited their village and made a point of reversing into the driveway of each house. It is of note that the tank and its crew would have had to make a special detour of approximately 10km to do this.

Other villages reported reckless and intentional damage to their crops and farms, left-over ordnance, mock infantry assaults on their homes, soldiers throwing sound bombs during the night and live artillery fire over their houses. There was no evidence of Israeli soldiers exercising within the Israeli settlements.

“The Israeli tanks just drive through and turn around as they please, they don‘’t care if they destroy our crops or our water pipes for irrigation…this is our private land…they [the Israelis] want to make us suffer and leave our land.”

121215Damage caused  to Palestinian farmland and irrigation by Israeli military vehicles

Damage caused to Palestinian farmland and irrigation systems by Israeli military vehicles [EAPPI/P.Longden]

The Israeli government says that its actions in occupied Palestine are justified on the basis of security. For example, the hilly Palestinian terrain resembles Lebanon and is therefore well suited to Israeli military exercises.

121215. Khirbet Yarza. Military left overs found adjacent to Palestinian Home.

Military left overs found next to a Palestinian home [EAPPI/P.Longden]

Palestinian villagers state that the discriminatory behaviour of the Israeli army in Palestine is designed to intimidate them, force them to leave their land, and facilitate the expansion of Israeli settlements.

Discriminatory military training 2,500 miles away and the continued expansion of illegal Israeli settlements may seem a remote issue, but it affects us all.

On 26 January, Ban Ki-Moon the Secretary-General of the United Nations, delivered a speech about the situation in the Middle East. He described the actions of Israel as:

…an affront to the Palestinian people and to the international community”.

Please contact you MP (in the UK) or TD (in Ireland) and ask them what they are doing to end the occupation.