Demolitions in Yarza, northern Jordan Valley, February 17, 2014 © Jaafar Ashtiyeh - AFP/File
Demolitions in Yarza, northern Jordan Valley, February 17, 2014 © Jaafar Ashtiyeh – AFP/File

In the north of the Jordan Valley, and adjacent to the town of Tubas, are three agricultural communities: Yarza (4families), Ibzik (13 families) and Samra (11 families). These families have existed on this land for hundreds of years, and some were born in caves, in the hills overlooking their homes. Their homes are regularly demolished: Yarza has been demolished five times with the last demolition occurring in August 2014.

The area is littered with ammunition, including bullets and landmines, as a result of a regular Israeli Occupation Forces training exercises that occur here. It is illegal under international law since this is an agricultural community and the exercises take place in close proximity to their homes. Many of the residents have been injured or killed, according to activists who work for Jordan Valley Solidarity, including a father of three who is burying and landmines in order to secure the safety of the community, and one exploded, killing him instantly.

The local community with the support of other organisations has requested protection from Ramallah, to no avail.

On Sunday, April 3, at 1.00 PM the residents were notified that military training exercises would be taking place for two days starting Monday, April 4 and they were to refrain from going out. However, the training started that night. When this is taking place, the children are prohibited from going to school, since they are usually bussed to Tubas. The area where they live has been designated Area C, and there are no schools within close proximity to them.

On April 4, two International Solidarity Movement volunteers arrived in Yarza. They observed the arrival of more than 200 heavily armed soldiers who were brought in buses and jeeps. They crossed the land the communities live on, many on foot, and potitioned themselves over a small mound approximately 500m away.

The communities feel very threatened by these actions. The children are especially terrified by the presence of the IOF and by the exceedingly loud explosions. The residents believe that there are many other areas further away that the IOF could choose instead of being so close by and endangering their safety.

This beleaguered community has suffered in countless ways. Their livestock is regularly confiscated affecting their livelihoods, their homes are frequently demolished, and worse yet, there there have been lives lost to Israeli military training.