Doctors without Borders call Israel’s forceful eviction of Palestinians from Masafer Yatta a war crime

Hundreds of Palestinians living in Masafer Yatta for generations are being constantly harassed by the occupation forces in order to force them to leave the area and allow Israel to build a firing range for the military

July 27, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
Israeli evictions in Masafer Yatta
(Photo: Wafa)

On Wednesday, July 26, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), or Doctors without Borders, termed as a war crime the continued attempts of the Israeli occupation to forcefully displace hundreds of Palestinian residents from Masafer Yatta in the southern occupied West Bank. It asked the international community to intervene to prevent this. 

Israeli occupation forces, who want to build a firing range for military training in the area, have been using various oppressive measures to displace the 1,100 Palestinians living in over a dozen villages in the area for decades now. 

Speaking at a press conference in Jordan’s capital Amman, MSF head of mission in Palestine, David Cantero Perez, said that “about 1,100 residents of Masafer Yatta live in danger of forced displacement, which constitutes a violation of international humanitarian law that Israel must respect, and constitutes a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and thus becomes a war crime,” Palestinian Wafa news agency reported.   

Enass Abu Khalaf, head of communication at MSF for the MENA region, emphasized that the amount of pressure applied by the Israeli occupation to force the Palestinians to leave the area has had a lasting impact on their physical and mental health. 

“Palestinians living in Masafer Yatta and its vicinity face great challenges, such as living in constant fear of displacement, the demolition of their homes, deprivation of water, restriction on their movements, and facing settler violence,” Khalaf said.  

Perez also noted that “the residents of Masafer Yatta are subjected to all forms of violence. Soldiers enter villages at night, enforce curfews and other movement restrictions, conduct military training near living areas, confiscate vehicles, and demolish homes” in order to make life unbearable for Palestinians.   

A large number of Palestinian were already displaced from the area in 1999, but those remaining filed a case in the Israeli judiciary which revoked the evictions. 

However, Israeli forces started demolishing schools, health centers, and other civilian infrastructure in the area following a May 2022 ruling of the Israeli Supreme Court which dismissed the legal petition filed by the Palestinian residents and cleared the way for Israeli attempts to build a firing range. 

Palestinians and human rights groups have called the Israeli assaults in Masafer Yatta ethnic cleansing and part of its agenda to expropriate the occupied West Bank.

MSF has published reports detailing the mental and physical health issues that Palestinians in Masafer Yatta are experiencing due to the Israeli tactics and has called for an immediate halt to all attempts to displace them. 

Israeli occupation has used similar methods to displace a large number of Palestinians from their lands and homes in different parts of the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. The confiscated Palestinian lands have been used to build illegal settlements or other structures, in complete violation of international laws related to occupation.