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Israeli forces leave Bethlehem village following military drill

Dec. 17, 2013 10:22 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 23, 2013 4:32 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces vacated the Bethlehem village of Arab al-Rashayida on Tuesday after conducting military drills in the area for several hours, locals said.

Fawaz al-Rashayida, head of the local village council, told Ma'an that 5,000 heavily armed Israeli soldiers arrived in the village at dawn on Tuesday.

Locals are used to Israeli forces performing drills on the outskirts of Arab al-Rashayida, but this is the first time they have raided homes and local institutions in the village, Fawaz al-Rashayida said.

The drills, which took place in between residential homes, caused damage to the village's water grid, he added.

Israeli forces also issued demolition orders for six properties belonging to Ali Awda Mohammad Rashayid.

The population of Arab al-Rashayida is around 2,000 and the majority of residents live in cement houses, while others live in tents and dwellings made of steel and tin.

On Monday afternoon, Israeli forces deployed in a nature reserve east of Arab al-Rashayida known locally as al-Muteirda, displacing nearby families and declaring it a "closed military zone."

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.

In November, Israeli human rights group Yesh Din said Israeli troops had been using a Muslim cemetery in Hebron as a location for military drills and practice.

Approximately 18 percent of the West Bank has been designated as a closed military zone for training, or "firing zone," which is roughly the same amount of the West Bank under full Palestinian Authority control.

Over 5,000 Palestinians reside in the firing zones in 38 communities.
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