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Israeli forces using Hebron Muslim cemetery for military drills

Nov. 9, 2013 9:20 P.M. (Updated: March 12, 2014 8:21 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli troops have been using a Muslim cemetery in Hebron as a location for military drills and practice, Israeli human rights group Yesh Din said on Wednesday.

Yesh Din captured footage of the soldiers carrying out military exercises inside the Palestinian cemetery near the southern West Bank city of Hebron.

"Think of the scandal we'd see if Palestinian policemen, or other foreign troops, were to use a Jewish cemetery for practice purposes; is it even conceivable for the IDF to use a Jewish graveyard for training purposes?" said Yossi Gurvitz, author of the Yesh Din blog post.

"One is pressed to imagine greater callousness of heart: turning a graveyard, a place on which every society places many taboos and much sensitivity, into a place where soldiers practice," Gurvitz said.

The incident continues a practice of using populated Palestinian areas for Israeli military drills since at least 2007, the author added.

The exercises are not announced to Palestinian locals in advance, and thus it is not always clear to nearby residents that these are mere drills.

Israeli military sources contacted by Yesh Din said that they were "obliged to maintain security and public order in the Judea and Samaria Region [the West Bank]. In order to maintain the capability of the IDF forces to carry out this mission, the IDF is forced to hold exercises, sometimes in populated areas."

During military drills, Israeli forces can enter Palestinian homes and involve Palestinian civilians in their operations without warning them that the raids are mere practice.

"It ought to be mentioned they are training mostly for operations against the neighbors of the cemetery,. i.e. these drills may, eventually, increase the population of that graveyard," added Yesh Din blogger Gurvitz.

More than 500,000 Israeli settlers live in settlements across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, in contravention of international law.

The internationally recognized Palestinian territories of which the West Bank and East Jerusalem form a part have been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967.

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