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Israel orders Jordan Valley evacuation for training

Palestinian village in the Jordan Valley after an Israeli  demolition in March 2012
MaanImages/Eleonora Vio, Wajdi Jafari, Stringer

Israeli forces on Dec. 31 delivered evacuation orders to around 100 Palestinian families in the northern Jordan Valley ahead of a military training exercise. The evacuation affects around 1,000 Palestinians living in rural communities around Wadi al-Maleh, local mayor Arif Daraghma told Ma’an News Agency. They must leave their homes by Dec. 2 for 48 hours, or they will be subject to penalties, he said. The orders state that Israeli troops will be holding military drills in the area. "To ensure the safety of the local inhabitants, temporary eviction notices were distributed today to the residents of the illegal structures located in a closed military zone to be used in the exercise," Israel's army said in a statement. The residents will be allowed to return after the military exercises have been completed. "It should be emphasized that these structures, located in closed military zones actively used by the IDF, are illegal in nature," the statement added.

This week's evacuation follows a similar exercise in November, when hundreds of Palestinians in the Jordan Valley were ordered from their homes ahead of a military exercise in the area, which is designated a closed military zone. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) says Israel has designated around 18% of the West Bank as closed military zones—an area roughly equal in size to Area A, the 17.7% of the West Bank under Palestinian Authority control.

Around 5,000 Palestinians live in Israeli military firing zones in the West Bank, UNOCHA says. Since 2010, Israel has demolished the homes of 820 Palestinians located in firing zones. Aref Daraghma, head of the Wadi Al-Maleh area, in the northern West Bank, stated that the Israeli army intends to displace around 10,000 Palestinian Bedouins in the area in order to conduct military training. (Ma'an News AgencyIMEMC, Dec. 31)

Israeli forces clashed with residents of West Bank village Nabi Saleh Dec. 31, after troops closed the main entrance to the community. A popular committee spokesman said Israeli forces closed the main iron gate leading to the village around midday, sparking clashes with local youth. Troops reportedly fired tear gas and rubber-coated bullets at the residents. (Ma'an News Agency, Dec. 31)

Anti-austerity protests also continue on the West Bank. A man from Balata refugee camp in Nablus attempted to set himself alight Dec. 31, in a protest against recently announced measures that will no longer exempt refugees from paying electricity costs. (Maan News Agency, Dec. 31)

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