Fourteen Palestinian villages are located in the Masafer Yatta area in the South Hebron Hills, providing homes to 13,000 inhabitants. These Palestinian communities have lived in this area since the early 19th century, relying on farming and husbandry of sheep and goats for their income. However, in the 1980s Israel designated the area as a “closed military zone”. Since then, Palestinian residents have faced evacuation and demolition of their homes and water cisterns. While a pending case has remained before the Israeli High Court of justice regarding Firing Zone 918 since 2000, the living conditions of the Palestinians in the area have gradually deteriorated. Contributing to these worsening conditions are Israeli military operations and trainings in the area, coupled with expanding settlements and acts of settler violence. In addition, most of the residents’ homes and tents have received stop work orders or demolition orders.
In July 2012, the Israeli authorities confirmed their intention to evacuate eight of the twelve villages of Masafer Yatta, exposing 1,000 people to the imminent threat of forcible transfer, which amounts to a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions and a war crime.