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The Occupied West Bank Latroun Villages

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The Occupied West Bank Latroun Villages - by Stephen Lendman

On June 6, 1967, when Israeli forces invaded Gaza and the West Bank, on the second day of the so-called Six-Day War (June 5 - 10, 1967), they entered three Palestinian villages in the Latroun salient - Imwas, Yalo and Beit Nouba, forcibly expelling the residents, numbering over 10,000 at the time. By the next day, most were gone while Israel began razing village lands and erasing their memory in an area well-known for its water resources and fertility, located northwest of Jerusalem along the Green Line. One soldier at the time explained that they:

"were told to take up positions around the approaches to the villages in order to prevent those villagers - who had heard the Israeli assurances over the radio that they could return to their homes in peace - from returning to their homes. The order was - shoot over their heads and tell them there is no access to the village," even though Fourth Geneva's Article 49 states:

"Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive." Doing so is a "grave breach," and those responsible are criminally liable.

Forty-two years later, their former homes gone and land expropriated, the survivors remain displaced, unable to return in violation of international law and Article 11 of UN Resolution 194:

"Resolv(ing) that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live in peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible."

Israel never complied even though its admission to the UN was conditional on accepting this and other relevant UN resolutions.

Established in 1979, Al-Haq is a Ramallah, West Bank-based independent Palestinian human rights NGO dedicated to protecting and promoting these rights and the rule of law in Occupied Palestine. In December 2007, it published a report still relevant titled, "Where Villages Stood: Israel's Continuing Violations of International Law in Occupied Latroun, 1967 - 2007," and dedicated it "To the people of Imwas, Yalo and Beit Nouba, and to all Palestinians who remain displaced from their homes, their villages, their land."

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Focusing on the Latroun villages, it highlights the plight of all Palestinians - denied their rights by forced displacements, prevented from returning, and in the Occupied Territories still living under an oppressive 42-year military occupation. Al Haq's purpose was to document an international crime, disclose the policy behind it, provide victims the evidence they need to seek justice, and the world community ample reason to demand it. After 42 repressive years, Israel's occupation "has acquired some of the (worst) characteristics of colonialism and apartheid" with no redress in sight to end it.

Following the Six-Day War, Israel expropriated 400 square km from displaced persons and refugees, and threatened Palestinians along the Green Line with more, especially in the three Latroun villages, targeted for annexation prior to the occupation by establishing irreversible "facts on the ground" when completed.

Al-Haq's study uncovered official Israeli political and military documents and compiled firsthand accounts from interviews with former soldiers who participated in the operation and were willing to discuss it freely. Thankfully so because their truths must be told.

The Story of the Latroun Villages: Their Destruction and Displacement

In Israel's 1948 "War of Independence," the Old City of Jerusalem (in East Jerusalem) and Latroun salient were key targets fought hard for, lost, and thereafter "engrained in the collective psyche of the Israeli military." As a result, Latroun remained a West Bank enclave along the Green Line, separated from Israel by a "No Man's Land" buffer zone.

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The Six-Day War achieved the earlier loss, erased a "bitter memory" according to Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, and provided an opportunity for more land and its valuable resources by expelling Palestinian residents and denying their right to return.

From the start, no resistance was met because the Jordanian military withdrew the night before, knowing it would be outnumbered so prioritized its defense of Jerusalem. As a result, Palestinian residents began fleeing as soon as Israeli tanks approached, and those remaining were forcibly expelled, in many cases with no time to take essentials, including food and water for a 20 km walk to Ramallah (in intense heat), their only way to get there not knowing their fate, yet believing at the time they'd be allowed to return.

Unknown to them then:

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I was born in 1934, am a retired, progressive small businessman concerned about all the major national and world issues, committed to speak out and write about them.

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