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Old 11-05-2013, 04:17 AM   #1
Fred O'Malley
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Default Israeli army drills in populated Palestinian areas are ‘legal’ – IDF

Soldiers storming private backyards and practicing break-ins on windows or doors is “prevalent practice” of the Israeli military in the occupied Palestinian territories, rights groups have claimed. The IDF’s legal body says the drills are perfectly legal.

Investigative reports by Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq and Israeli NGO Yesh Din have described scenes of military operations on civilian homes that sound like they could be part of a Hollywood action movie. But both groups say the scenes are real, and are carried out by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on a regular basis.

One of the incidents documented by Al-Haq shows 18 Israeli soldiers raiding a rural home in the Salfit area of the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT), in which two Palestinian sisters are staying with their six children. The soldiers are shown breaking into the house at night, forcing the women and children to the ground floor, seizing their mobile phones, and keeping them in the house until morning. The troops then let the Palestinians prepare their children for school, while allegedly continuing to occupy the house for the entire day as part of “military training.” This training involves dismantling the windows in one of the rooms upstairs, a Palestinian woman claims.

Another story reported by Yesh Din shows Israeli troops storming the backyard of a Palestinian family home at Tel Rumeida in Hebron during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Some 15 soldiers break in while the Palestinian family is having their breakfast, scatter inside the house, and practice taking the building by assault using special equipment. This allegedly all takes places while the family members are confined inside the house.

These may seem like the kinds of reports that the IDF would never possibly acknowledge or comment on. But after the Israeli NGO stepped in and launched a complaint claiming there had been a “series” of such trainings in Palestinian villages, the Israeli army’s judicial body decided to investigate.

Yesh Din’s complaint was followed by another one by Al Haq, submitted in a November 4 letter to Israel’s diplomatic representatives.

Palestinian youths stand watching as Israeli soldiers take position in the divided West Bank city of Hebron (AFP Photo / Hazem Bader)

Palestinian youths stand watching as Israeli soldiers take position in the divided West Bank city of Hebron (AFP Photo / Hazem Bader)

“Al-Haq has documented a number of incidents in different areas in the West Bank,” the letter said. “The number and nature of the incidents indicates that these are not isolated occurrences, but represent a concerted and prevalent practice on the part of the Israeli military.”

Not only do such private home interferences violate international humanitarian and human rights law, but “the use of the OPT as a training field for the Israeli occupying forces indicates a strong disregard for the integrity of the OPT and the Palestinian civilian population,” the rights group stated.

The Israelis, however, had a different take on the issue. On Monday, an IDF spokesman said that, after looking into the matter, the IDF’s Military Advocate General (MAG) “found that there was no legal obstacle to holding training in inhabited areas as part of maintaining security in the area.”

The legality of training inside the villages in the OPT is anchored in the principles of “belligerent occupation,” wrote MAG’s deputy prosecutor for operational affairs, Maj. Harel Weinberg. Such principles hold that an Israeli military commander is the sovereign authority in the area, and must maintain security and public order in the West Bank - including by means of occasional training exercises in populated areas.

The MAG, however, promised to “make clear” that the soldiers taking part in drills “must avoid putting the population at risk, damaging their property or causing unreasonable disturbance to their daily routine.” Any deviations from these rules will have to be clarified with the MAG, which will “take the appropriate measures” when necessary.

Under international humanitarian law, the Palestinian population of the OPT are regarded as protected persons. The Fourth Geneva Convention defines protected persons as “those who, at a given moment and in any manner whatsoever, find themselves, in case of a conflict or occupation, in the hands of a Party to the conflict or Occupying Power of which they are not nationals.”

An Israeli soldier argues with a Palestinian protester during clashes in the West Bank city of Hebron March 1, 2013.(Reuters / Mussa Qawasma)

An Israeli soldier argues with a Palestinian protester during clashes in the West Bank city of Hebron March 1, 2013.(Reuters / Mussa Qawasma)


But while Israel is bound by international law to protect Palestinians in the OPT, it also maintains the sovereign authority of its military in most of the occupied territories (the so-called Area C). Palestinian activists claim the concept has been used by Israeli soldiers to act with “virtual impunity” when it comes to the Palestinian population. Al-Haq has in particular been publicly standing up for the rights of Palestinians in the OPT and for Israel to uphold the principles of international law and give the people protection instead of an “atmosphere of impunity.”

The occupied Palestinian territories comprise of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. They have often been referred to as such by the UN and international legal bodies ever since Israel overtook both from Jordan and Egypt in 1967, following the Six Day War. Prior to that, they made up part of the larger area intended by the United Nations to become the territory of the future State of Palestine. Following the 1993 Oslo Accords, parts of the territories - known as Areas A and B - came under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian National Authority, while Israel retained full military control over most of the area - Area C - now comprising 61 percent of the West Bank. Following the 2007 Hamas takeover in Gaza, the OPT became politically divided, with the Gaza Strip being governed by Hamas and West Bank areas dominated by Fatah.

http://rt.com/news/idf-palestinian-areas-drills-190/
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