Declaring lands as “firing zones” is one of the ploys Israel uses to expropriate Palestinian lands and normalize the ongoing dispossession of the Palestinian people – in both the 1948 and the 1967 territories.

In 1945, Jews owned less than 10% of the lands in the territory later to become the State of Israel * Following the 1948 war, more than 80% of the Palestinians previously inhabiting this territory became refugees, and about 600 of their towns and villages were destroyed * In 1949, about 78% of the lands controlled by the State of Israel were designated “absentee properties”, meaning Palestinian lands occupied and expropriated * By 2020, most of these areas remained uninhabited. They were empty or declared as “national parks”, “nature reserves”, or “firing zones” * 27% of the land area of the State of Israel are now (mis)used by the military * In the West Bank occupied by Israel since 1967, 18% of the lands have been declared “firing zones”

In the early 1980s, the military declared an area of nearly 7,500 acres in Masafer Yatta, in the southern Hebron Hills, as “Firing Zone 918” * By the end of the decade, more than 700 of the area’s inhabitants have been expelled under the pretext of “illegally inhabiting a firing zone”, and what little property they had was confiscated * In May 2022, the so-called High Court of Justice ruled that Israel can hold military exercises in the area and evacuates the inhabitants of Masafer Yatta, about 1,300 farmers and shepherds, including hundreds of minors * Ever since then, the military has been holding exercises there, including tanks, live ammunition, and mine detonation within the villages and near the houses, destroying buildings and infrastructures and preventing access to water sources and humanitarian services in the process.

This cruel and inhuman treatment of the people of Masafer Yaffa must be understood in the overall context of ongoing dispossession and ethnic cleansing in all areas occupied and controlled by the Zionist regime – whether subjected to settler-colonialism, military government, occupation or blockade, and whether by systematic and well-planned population transfer or by constant harassment and threats * The story of “Firing Zone 918” is the story of the State of Israel *The disaster of the peaceful people of Masafer Yatta is metonymic of the ongoing Nakba.