Israeli Army Raids Palestinian Villages for 'Intel Mapping' After Cutting Practice

During the raid, soldiers logged and photographed residents of Masafer Yatta, where 1,000 Palestinians face eviction. Residents worry the intel gathered will be used to expel them

הגר שיזף
Hagar Shezaf
Israeli soldier during the raid at Masafer Yatta, in the West Bank, over the weekend.
Israeli soldier during the raid at Masafer Yatta, in the West Bank, over the weekend.Credit: Itai Feitelson
הגר שיזף
Hagar Shezaf

The Israeli army carried out intelligence-collecting raids in the homes of Palestinians living in the South Hebron Hills over the weekend, though it announced last year that it had nixed the practice.

These raids took place in six of the eight villages in the Masafer Yatta region in the West Bank. Last month, the High Court of Justice approved the eviction of some 1,000 Palestinians from the eight villages, after a two-decade legal dispute over land that has been declared a firing zone by the Israeli army.

The process of "intelligence mapping," as it is known in Israeli terminology, involves Israeli soldiers entering the homes of Palestinians overnight who are not suspected of any offenses, in order to register the home's occupants and describe the building.

The soldiers who came to the six villages over the weekend photographed residents' identity cards, noted the number of residents in each house, and in a few cases also photographed them.

This is not a drill: over the weekend, the military began what appears to be preparations for the deportation of some 1,000 Palestinians in Masafer Yatta.

The Israeli army said the raid was carried out in an effort to prevent Palestinians illegally entering Israel.

Last year, the army said it would stop conducting mapping raids in Palestinian villages, save for exceptional circumstances and subject to approval by senior commanders.

The operation took place in villages near the Green Line, where roads can be crossed illegally. Soldiers visited the village of Khallet al-Daba where they were documented entering houses and asking residents about the use of various buildings. According to an Israeli activist who was there, the soldiers also photographed children at the scene.

In other villages, the soldiers did not photograph the residents, but took pictures of their ID cards. They also registered the number of people in each house, as well as their names and who owned cars. A resident of the village of Khirbet al-Majaz told Haaretz that he was worried that the information gathered in the raid would also be used in the eviction process against the villages.

The Israeli army said that soldiers raided the villages after receiving approval from senior commanders.

In June 2021, Israel's military said it would stop carrying out intelligence mapping raids, as a new technological tool would make it superfluous. It was later revealed that the army has begun using the “Blue Wolf” tracking system, a database into which the details and photos of Palestinians are uploaded, enabling their tracking and monitoring.

Among other things, the database includes each individual's ID card number, age, gender, place of residence, car number, links with other people, and work status in Israel. In addition, the soldier can note their impression of the Palestinian person during the meeting in which they logged their information.

The Israeli army said in response: “Because of the increased security efforts in recent times, in order to prevent the illegal entry into Israel and to prevent the passage of terrorists from Judea and Samaria into Israel, last weekend a specific "mapping" operation was conducted of certain structures in the South Hebron Hills area near the boundary of Judea and Samaria. The survey was conducted after receiving approval from the relevant operational authorities, and according to regulations.

“It should be made clear that the commitment [to stop the raids] was not given as part of a petition to the High Court of Justice, but was provided in response to a request, in which it was decided that mapping buildings in Judea and Samaria will be done in exceptional cases, in which there exists a concrete operational security need, and subject to receiving approval from senior commanders, as was done in this case,” it said.

Editorial note: The text has been amended to clarify that the High Court of Justice approved the eviction of Palestinians from the Masafer Yatta area which has been declared a firing zone by the Israeli army.

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