There’s been a tremendous amount of “chatter” recently – including governments condemning Israel and members of the US Congress referring to “ethnic cleansing” and serious crimes” committed by Israel in the case of Khurbet Humsa.

Although Regavim was not involved in this case, here are some facts to give you a more accurate picture of the story, which the European Union has failed do to.

First, the High Court of Justice decision, which refers to three earlier appeals on the same matter, in 4/2011, 7/2011 and 11/2014.

In each case the appellants tried a new excuse – Ramadan, the weather, who knows what – to prevent their removal from the site; in each case the court rejected the appeal out of hand. The area has been an active IDF training ground since 1972 (Firing Grounds 903), and the Bedouin didn’t set up camp there until 2010.

The satellite images we obtained are of the training grounds in 2008, focusing on the spot that was recently evacuated, followed by an image of the same point in 2013 (where only one structure is visible), and another in 2019 (where the recently-demolished structures, complete with European donors’ symbols, stand).

We haven’t done in-depth research on this illegal outpost, and weren’t involved in the legal process that resulted in last week’s demolitions, but this phenomenon is repeated over and over in IDF training grounds. In the case of the southern Hebron Hills area, a city has sprung up on what was IDF Firing Zones 917 and 918. As the Palestinian Authority and the European benefactors flooded the training grounds with more and more structures (not tents or shacks but massive, even palatial homes), the IDF gradually withdrew in order to avoid injuring the squatters, eventually abandoning the training grounds altogether. It’s no coincidence that this area was targeted for aggressive take-over: It forms a land bridge between Area A to the Negev and beyond, and is an active smuggling route.

This week, the IDF held a military exercise that began in the Negev in Biq’at Arad and ended in Training Ground 918 in the South Hebron Hills.

Shouldn’t be much of a big deal, right?

Well, far-left organizations such as B’Tselem pounced on this opportunity to attack the IDF, claiming that the drills were held “in Palestinian villages” and forced “local residents out of their homes”. This left-wing propaganda was publicized in the international media, too. It’s important for us at Regavim to present the facts so that fair-minded people aren’t brainwashed by these lies.

1. Training Ground 918 was declared a firing zone by the IDF in the early 1980s.

2. It’s a desert area, and like all other training grounds, was empty – besides sometimes functioning as a grazing area.

3. Training Ground 918 has served various IDF units over the years – including infantry, artillery, and the Air Force.

4. In 2000, local Arabs began to take over the area through mass illegal construction.

5. Due to the construction, the IDF was forced to reduce its activities in the Training Ground and made changes to training schedules.

6. Radical left-wing organizations filed a petition to the High Court of Justice, claiming that hundreds of Arab families had lived in the Training Ground for many years.

7. The IDF checked and found that only a handful of families lived in the area in 2000 – and they were all there on a seasonal basis. It wasn’t their permanent residence!

8. Out of 49 families mentioned in the petition, at least 38 were identified as permanent residents of the nearby village of Yatta or other villages.

9. Despite the State’s position, which viewed the land as rightfully belonging to the State, the High Court offered a compromise: the illegal structures on the periphery of the Training Ground would remain, and the rest of the land would be permitted for grazing and other agricultural purposes when the IDF isn’t using the grounds.

10. Although the Palestinian Authority was involved from the starting point, from 2009 onwards, together with international organizations, it started actively funding the illegal construction as part of their efforts to take over Area C. (For more on the #BattleforAreaC – see here)

11. In the meantime, the State of Israel didn’t do much; local Arabs continued their encroachment and even paved an illegal smuggling route.

12. The PA ignored the High Court’s suggestion for compromise. And as the PA-led encroachment increased, the number of IDF drills decreased drastically.

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Ok, so to sum up, what happened this week? Exactly what happened a year ago, and the year before that. IDF troops came to train in an #DF training zone.

Unlike the left-wing radicals, we like to talk #facts rather than fake news and hateful, fabricated, anti-Israel narratives.

The Arab village was established in the middle of the IDF Training Ground, and not vice-versa. That must be the starting point of any discussion.

Please share this post to help us get the truth out.

Regavim: Protecting Israel’s Resources, Preserving Israeli Sovereignty

IDF Firing Zones 917 and 918 are situated in a strategic area in the South Hebron Hills, a region that connects Israel’s eastern flank to the Negev and the Dead Sea.

For the past few years, a massive take-over of land in this area has been underway, and we at Regavim have made a major effort to combat the phenomenon and have the squatters removed. In Area 918, for example, we submitted a petition against an entire village, Halet al Dabaa, which was constructed illegally by the European Union.

We also petitioned the Supreme Court last year regarding an illegal road that had been paved, in another attempt to create facts on the ground and fulfill the Fayyad Plan’s vision of connecting Gaza, the Negev, and the Hebron Hills and create territorial contiguity that would effectively amputate the Negev from Israel.

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This week, in response to our petition, the High Court of Justice issued an order to halt illegal development activities on IDF Firing Grounds 917 and 918.

We welcome the High Court’s clear pronouncement and hope it will be the first step toward halting this catastrophic plan.