Israeli Forces Conduct Military Training in Birzeit

Israeli forces conducted military training exercises in the Ramallah district town of Birzeit earlier this week, according to Israeli media.

The Israeli forces’ Territorial Brigade allegedly raided the town, which is just outside the central West Bank city of Ramallah, in what was reported by Israeli news source Haaretz as “preparation for a possible escalation on the ground.”

The forces engaged in a variety of potential scenarios including confronting violent mass demonstrations, shooting attacks, and use of live fire by members of Palestinian security forces.

While Haaretz reported the exercise was planned with the intention to cause “relatively little disruption to the routine of Palestinian life,” the account included a training exercise that involved a raid on the home of a Birzeit University college student, whose house was searched during the night while he stood in his pajamas with an Israeli soldier.

The training exercises come just over a year after Israeli forces shot dead a 24-year old Palestinian in the same town during a raid.

Muatazz Washaha was killed after Israeli forces tried to invade his home and arrest him for being part of a leftist political group in Feb. 2014. The forces fired a shell into the home following a brief stand off.

An Israeli army spokeswoman did not have any immediate information about the training, but told Ma’an she would look into recent military training activity in the area.

Birzeit is in Area A, falling under full civil and military control of the Palestinian Authority according to the Oslo Accords. However, Israeli forces repeatedly enter Area A, most often in military raids launched on a near nightly basis to detain Palestinians.

Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din reported that Israeli forces have upheld the practice of using populated Palestinian areas for Israeli military drills since at least 2007.

The group filed a complaint against the Israeli Military Advocate General’s Corps in 2013, arguing that such military exercises “sow fear and panic and violate the security and dignity of the residents,” particularly because exercises are often not announced to Palestinian locals in advance, and thus it is not always clear to nearby residents that these are mere drills.

The military’s Legal Advisor for the West Bank declared in February 2014 that military training exercises were no longer authorized to be held in Palestinian villages without giving prior notification to the civilian population. However, Yesh Din has criticized the fact that the practice has continued.

(Ma’an – www.maannews.net)

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