In an expert opinion, Prof. Michael Bothe, an International Law expert, states that the Israeli plan to conduct extensive destructions and forcibly displace Palestinians from the South Hebron Hills for the purpose of establishing an Israeli "Firing Zone" would constitute a grave breach of international law.
Ahead of the expected extensive destruction and forcible transfer of over 1,500 Palestinian residents of 8 villages  located in the “Firing Zone 918” in the South Hebron Hills, Professor Michael Bothe  a leading authority in international humanitarian law, provides an expert opinion on the ‘Limits of the right of expropriation (requisition) and of movement restrictions in occupied territory’.
If the plan is enforced, the destruction of Palestinian properties and the forcible eviction of persons from their location would violate the guarantee of private property which international law provides in a situation of occupation as well as the prohibition of the destruction of property and of forced transfer of protected persons. According to Professor Bothe: ‘General training needs of an army of occupation cannot justify forced transfer of a protected population’. These violations constitute grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions (Article 147 of the IV Convention) .
Summary of the main legal arguments:
- The establishment of the “Firing Zone 918” for general military trainings of the Occupying Power cannot justify the expropriation nor the movement restrictions on the 12 villages. Only the specific needs of the occupation could justify such measures, which general military training, unrelated to the specific needs of the occupation, is not. But even if the training could be considered as being generally able to justify such restrictions, in the case of “Firing Zone 918” the expected harm to the civilian Palestinian population (i.e. the loss of homes, agricultural lands and threats to very existence of the community) is disproportionate –and hence, unlawful- when balanced against the concrete and direct military advantages sought as a consequence of establishing the training area.
- Destruction of property is prohibited unless rendered absolutely necessary by military operations, in accordance with Article 53 of the IV Geneva Convention. Destruction of property for the purpose of establishing a “Firing Zone” for training cannot be justified because training does not constitute a military operation in this sense. Under these circumstances, the expected extensive destruction of the property of the 12 villages for the purposes of establishing a “Firing Zone” would constitute a clear violation of Article 53 of the IV Geneva Convention and would amount to a grave breach according to Article 147.
- The prohibition of forcible transfers by IHL does not differentiate between permanent and non-permanent residents of the “Fire Zone”, as the Israeli military legislation does. Israeli law must conform to international law. Hence, forcibly displacing any of the inhabitants or any community of the 12 villages – either for general military trainings or based on arguments of lack of building permits – is a violation of Article 49 of the IV Geneva Convention and constitutes a grave breach according to Article 147.
Background on the "Firing Zone 918"
Late July 2012, the Israeli Ministry of Defence declared that residents of eight Palestinian villages from the South Hebron Hillls (Majaz, Tabban, Sfai, Fakheit, Halaweh, Mirkez, Jinba, and Kharuba) located in an area designated as a closed military zone (“Firing Zone 918”) would have to be evacuated, as they do not have any lawful reasons to remain in this territory. In a communication to the Israeli High Court of Justice, the State of Israel claimed the entire zone is needed for the Israeli army’s general training exercises.
Over 1,500 residents of the eight villages are expected to be relocated to dispersed locations in the West Bank and only be allowed access to their agricultural lands in the “Firing Zone” sporadically during the weekends and Jewish holidays, as well as two one-month periods during the year, when the army is not training.
The residents of four additional villages (Tuba, Mufaqara, Sarura and Megheir al-Abeid) located in the “Firing Zone 918” will continue to live in the zone, while military trainings that do not require use of live ammunition would take place. Those residents will not be relocated but would have to get the approval of the Israeli Civil Administration (ICA) for any building required, in order to establish their lawful presence. However, statistics from the past years show that the ICA heavily restricts Palestinian construction in Area C, of the West Bank -where those villages are located.
According to The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA), since 1967, Israel has designated about to 18 %of the West Bank as a closed military zone for the purposes of military training (as distinct from the closed military areas around Israeli settlements, between the Barrier and the Green Line, etc.), rendering the areas effectively off limits for Palestinians. According to UN OCHA, 10 settlement outposts are located either partially or completely in army firing zones.
 Eight villages are presently at immediate threat, but twelve villages are located in the “Firing zone 918”.
 Professor Michael Bothe is Professor emeritus of international law, at J.W. Goethe University in Frankfurt/Main, Germany.
 It should be noted that all grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions are war crimes.
expert opinion by Law Professors Eyal Benvenisti, Yuval Shany and David Kretzmer in support of a petition filed by (ACRI) in the name of residents of Firing Zone 918 in South Hebron Hills. For more elaboration on the case see (ACRI)
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Four senior International Law professors have shown full endorsement of the analysis and conclusion of Prof. Michael Bothe's expert opinion on Firing Zone 918.
Eric David, Professor emeritus of international law, Universte Libre de Bruxelles (ULB and President of the centre for International law at the ULB.
Hanspeter Neuhold, Professor emeritus of international law and International Relations, University of Vienna.
Mr. Dr. Erik Koppe, Assistant Professor of Public International Law. Grotins Centre for International Legal Studies.
Pierre- Marie Dupuy, Professor of Public International Law, Emeritus- University of Paris (Pantheon- Assas) Graduate Institute for the International and Development studies- Geneva. Member, Institute de droit international, International Councel and Arbitrator
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Expert Opinion by Prof. Michael Bothe: "Limits of the right of expropriation (requisition) and of movement restrictions in occupied territory"