Israel’s Civil Administration confiscated last week a trailer that Palestinians had begun using as a clinic in Al-Markaz, a small village inside Masafer Yatta, a town which in turn finds itself within a southern West Bank military firing area called Firing Zone 918.
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The residents and the head of the village council fear the Civil Administration will confiscate another two trailers that also started serving as clinics in two adjacent villages, Safai and Majaz. The three are among the 12 small villages that existed prior to 1967 in the area, which Israel has designated as Firing Zone 918. It is also demanding that over 1,000 residents in eight of the villages be permanently evicted. The state forbids connecting them to the water supply or electricity grid as well as any construction, including for structures for public needs, like clinics or schools. The spokesperson’s office for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories commented, “Confiscating the mobile homes was done because they were put in place without permission from authorities in Firing Zone 918, where any presence is a danger to the public.”
The medical care, under the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority, had previously been provided in tents in five of the communities. According to Palestinian Health Ministry statistics, some 400 people, among them 90 with chronic conditions, visit the tents every month – along with 120 children, who come mostly for vaccinations. At the start of the year, a larger staff began working there five days a week. With no decent access roads, the medical team arrive in a four-wheel drive vehicle. Weather conditions make it hard to treat patients in the tents; in nearby Jenbah, they stopped using the tent two months ago. Moreover, patients complained about the lack of privacy. Thus, three trailers equipped with a bathroom stall and a water tank each were brought in about 10 days ago to Al-Markaz, Safai and Majaz. The Al-Markaz trailer was confiscated three days after its arrival.
The Palestinian Health Ministry only started provided care in the tent in 2013. Before that, Al-Karmel, which is about 15-20 kilometers from the three communities, was the nearest village with a medical center. Lacking proper access roads and public transportation, patients needing urgent care were brought there on tractors. Some died before they made it. Others gave up because of the difficult journey. Sometimes soldiers from the Beit Yatir checkpoint would administer first aid and call an ambulance.
After the trailer was confiscated, the head of the Masafer Yatta village council, Nidal Abu Aram, filed a petition to the High Court of Justice through attorney Neta Amar Shiff. The petition asks the High Court to order Defense Minister Avigdor Liebmeran and the head of the Civil Administration, Gen. Achvat Ben-Hur, not to dismantle and confiscate any trailers serving as clinics until the end of court proceedings.
On Sunday, Supreme Court Justice Noam Sohlberg ordered the state to respond to the petition within a week, but refused the request to issue a restraining order against dismantling and confiscating the clinics.
In January, the High Court will hold hearings regarding the village residents' petition to prevent the state from evicting them from their homes to allow the military to hold firing exercises in the areas. Mediation between the state and village representatives (attorney Shlomo Lecker and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel) has borne no fruit over the past two years.
COGAT also commented: “The Civil Administration works in coordination with the Palestinian Authority and international organizations to invest in organized projects in Judea and Samaria and to meet residents’ medical needs. The Civil Administration health coordinator holds training for Palestinian doctors, joint study days and organizes trips for Palestinian children who are treated in Israel.”
In response to the COGAT statement, Amar Shiff said that “courses, training, study days and trips cannot replace COGAT actively initiating and placing clinics in Area C. Alternately, in the absence of developing medical services and placing clinics within Palestinian villages in Area C, the Civil Administration should support humanitarian organizations that supply the clinics rather than demolish them.”