In the West Bank’s Wadi al-Malih, Palestinian farmers and residents are experiencing Israel’s military training as a tool of displacement.
Israeli policies of holding military training in the middle of populated areas continues and has, once again, cost farmers their livelihoods. Every year the military organizes large-scale military training on the land of the Palestinian farmers in the northern part of Jordan Valley. Usually these trainings take place during the summer, when the farmers are about to harvest their crops, but, this time, they started training at the beginning of the winter, when the farmers prepare the land for cultivation and planting seeds. This means that planting can’t happen, and people will have nothing to harvest in the coming season.
This year, al-Wadi al-Malih, the “Salty Valley,” was the target of the military operation. Al-Farisya, the community that has suffered the most from this year’s military training, is located at the eastern part of al-Wadi al-Malih, 20 km east of Tubās city. The Israeli occupation military gave notice to the families to leave their places during the military training days, leaving their tents and animals behind at the mercy of the tanks and live ammunition.
The fertile valley took its name from the hot springs that historically flow down the valley. Before the Israeli occupation of the West Bank in 1967, thirteen communities have been living in the valley, but since then a relentless and multifaceted policy of displacement has put each and every resident in al-Wadi al-Malih under heavy pressure to leave the area. Al-Farisya is today inhabited by 300 people, while they were 1,000 until 1967.
Once under Israeli occupation, the lands of valley have been declared closed military zone, barring farmers from building and destroying their tents and animals shelters, shooting the animals and seizing the grazing land for military uses. Today only five communities still remain in al-Wadi al-Malih: al- Farisya, Khirbat Samra, Khirbat Hamma, `Ain al-Hilwah and Hammamat al-Malih. These communities are facing the repeated the destruction of their structures—whether homes, infrastructure or commercial buildings—under the pretext of building without permission, or being located in a closed military zone. The people of these communities depend on their animals to sustain themselves, even after 70% of their land seized for military training.
In fact, when military trainings occur during the summer months, they take place during the period in which the wheat is being dried in the fields and the tanks running over the fields or any spark or flame burns the crop. Then farmers, who depend on the dried grain to feed their animals during the usually very hot and dry summer season, are left without any fodder for their livestock.
Even though the valley is famous for its water reserves, Israel has taken control of the water resources and denies Palestinians access to water. This forces the farmers to bring water with trucks, mainly from Bardala and `Ain al-Baidha, some 30 km north of the area. The communities have no health services or electricity as any service or infrastructure is prohibited by the occupation and faces demolition.
To add to these measures, the communities usually face daily harassments by soldiers and settlers. Al-Wadi al-Malih is surrounded by three Israeli settler colonies and three military camps, which target the lives of the Palestinian residents of the area, as an integral element of the occupation’s wider ethnic cleansing policies.
Photo: Israeli military training near the occupied village of Twayyil, 4 May 2015. Source: Aqraba Municipality.