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Israeli forces seize lands in Bethlehem area to build military training site

Aug. 9, 2017 5:00 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 9, 2017 5:00 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The Israeli army confiscated 70 dunams (17.3 acres) of Palestinian lands in the southern occupied West Bank district of Bethlehem on Tuesday, allegedly to build a military training site.

The move reportedly affected the villages of al-Jabaa and Surif. Al-Jabaa village council head Thiyab Meshaala told Ma’an that the Israeli army escorted bulldozers to al-Khur, an area in western al-Jabaa, and razed some 10 dunams of lands belonging to the Abu Latifa, Hamdan, Abu Luha, and al-Tus families.

When residents of al-Jabaa went to the site in protest, Meshaala said, Israeli soldiers told them that “the army declared this area a closed military zone to be used for military trainings,” adding that Palestinians were forbidden from entering or approaching the area.

Meshaala said that Israeli forces had also razed lands in western al-Jabaa near an existing Israeli military checkpoint a week earlier.

Neither the Israeli army nor the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Israeli military agency responsible for implementing Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian territory, immediately responded to a request for comment.

Right groups have claimed that Israeli-declared military training zones, also known as a "firing zone," are used to fully annex parts of the occupied West Bank. Communities that find themselves inside declared "firing zones" face a high risk of losing their livelihoods, homes, and schools.

Nearly 20 percent of the occupied West Bank has been declared "firing zones" since the 1970s, but according to the UN, recent research shows that nearly 80 percent of these areas are not in fact used for military training.

However, when military training does take place, Israel forces Palestinian families living in those areas to leave their homes for hours or days at a time until the drill is over.
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