Israeli army training near Al Farisiya in April 2012

17 year old Yassir Sulaiman Sal man Najadah is still recovering from the Israeli army bullet that punctured his body on Thursday 26th April 2012. You may ask what crime he committed to deserve such a severe punishment, and the answer is simple. He was herding camels in the hills near Al Maleh in the northern Jordan Valley.

Yassir’s family and the thousands of other Palestinian families living in the Jordan Valley are faced with a daily dilemma. They can eke out a living by grazing their animals on the hillsides, or they can go to work in the illegal Israeli settlements that have been built on land stolen from their community. The only other options are to leave the Jordan Valley under duress or stay at home and barely survive on aid and handouts.

To simply go out and graze their camels, sheep, goats or cattle, as their families have done for generations, is a necessity, and a perilous act of resistance all at the same time. Map of Military BasesThere are more than 20 military bases in the area. Where-ever you are in the valley you will be in sight of one of the masts and watchtowers up on the hillside, constantly looking down and surveilling every Palestinian community. The bigger military bases, with massive sheds full of tanks and jeeps, dormitories for the resident and visiting soldiers, are situated nearer the main roads. They are spread throughout the whole length of the Jordan Valley, and take up around 2% of the total land area.

In total, 95% of the land in the Jordan Valley is off-limits to Palestinians: 50% is controlled the Israel’s illegal settlements, and the other 45% is military bases, ‘closed military zones’ and ‘nature reserves’ (areas controlled by the occupation, that Palestinians are refused access to).

The Israeli Occupation army treats the Jordan Valley as its permanent training ground. In any week of the year there will be hundreds of troops setting up temporary bases in the hills and running training exercises with absolute disregard for any families that may be living nearby.  They may destroy the crops of Palestinian farmers, (e.g. Al Farisiya in March 2012), or injure Palestinians or their animals (as happened to Yassir in Al Maleh). When Yassir was shot he managed to return to his uncle’s home on his donkey. His uncle immediately drove him to the nearest military base for first aid, but they refused to help.  Yassir had to be driven to the medical centre in Tubas in the back of his uncle’s car, and transferred from there to Nablus, then on to Ramallah for surgery.

One of many Israeli army firing areas declared next to bedouin homesTo survive independently any Palestinian farmer in the Jordan Valley has no choice but to pass one of the many concrete blocks declaring ‘Firing Area Entrance Forbidden’ and onto land that the occupation forces have declared as a ‘closed military zone’.

They live in a region that have been absolutely militarized in the past 45 years, with army bases, training grounds, military aircraft flying low overhead, checkpoints, the separation wall, demolitions and destruction.