Residents of Masafer Yatta, a desert region of the southern West Bank in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, have been facing expulsion threats and demolition orders since 1981. That year, the Israeli army designated the area as a firing zone – a closed military zone.
Since then, Israeli authorities have been putting extraordinary pressure on the residents of Masafer Yatta to leave the area, in what may amount to a forcible transfer, prohibited under International Humanitarian Law.
Residents’ access to electricity, water, food and education, as well to freedom of movement and medical access, are limited, and many have been forced to leave their homes.
Over the years, Palestinian residents of Masafer Yatta have appealed to the Israeli court to stop demolitions and expulsions, but in May 2022, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that Palestinians in the region are not permanent residents. This allowed the area to be declared “a firing zone 918” and permitted the relocation of the residents.
Since this court decision, Masafer Yatta residents have experienced an increase in harassment, restrictive measures, demolition orders, as well as the demolition of homes, schools, and other structures.
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams have witnessed first-hand the consequences of the increasingly coercive and oppressive measures enforced by Israeli authorities, on the physical and mental health of residents in Masafer Yatta.
As well as demolishing people’s homes, the authorities have installed checkpoints, confiscated residents’ vehicles, enforced curfews, and put in place other movement restrictions.
Our teams are responding to residents of Masafer Yatta’s medical needs by running three clinics in three locations in the area. We provide basic healthcare, with a range of activities including healthcare for children, treatment for chronic communicable diseases, reproductive health, mental health for survivors of violence, and nutritional screening.