Reports

 Israel Steps Up Palestinian Displacement Forcing Explosion in Masafer Yatta

Israel’s Supreme Court refused petitions held by Palestinians against a long-running bid by the Israeli army to displace over 2,000 Palestinian inhabitants from a rural part of the occupied West Bank it designated for military exercises.

After two decades of inconclusive legal maneuvering, the high court is expected to hand down a ruling soon on the army’s move to demolish eight small communities in a rocky, arid area of the southern West Bank near Hebron.

Petitioners say that would make more than 2,000 Palestinians homeless and endanger their distinct, generations-long nomadic way of life, eking out a living from farming and herding.

“They have been dragging us from one court hearing to another for 22 years,” Othman al-Jabareen, one of the Palestinian petitioners, said in court. “God willing, the justices will let us stay on our land because we have no other option.”

The area, spanning 3,000 hectares (7,400 acres) and known to Palestinians as Masafer Yatta, and to Israelis as the South Hebron Hills, lies close to the West Bank-Israel boundary.

In 1999, the military displaced hundreds of Palestinian inhabitants from their homes after declaring the area a firing zone. Initial petitions were filed in 2000 and a court ordered the Israeli government to allow the residents to return pending a final ruling.

After repeated delays and failed mediation attempts, the government and military filed responses to the Palestinian petitions in 2012.

As the case languished without a definitive outcome over the past two decades, Palestinian residents said they were denied building permits with the army demolishing any new structures including houses, water wells and solar panels. The military, meanwhile, has conducted only sporadic exercises.

Palestinians in the area also say they have struggled to connect to water and electricity networks to which nearby Jewish settlements built on occupied land have access.

“This case is not about a firing zone, it is about taking control of land because unlike other areas, most of this land is privately owned,” said Shlomo Lecker who, along with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, is representing 200 of the Palestinian families under threat of displacement.

After repeated delays and failed mediation attempts, the government and military filed responses to the Palestinian petitions in 2012.

As the case languished without a definitive outcome over the past two decades, Palestinian residents said they were denied building permits with the army demolishing any new structures including houses, water wells and solar panels. The military, meanwhile, has conducted only sporadic exercises.

Palestinians in the area also say they have struggled to connect to water and electricity networks to which nearby Jewish settlements built on occupied land have access.

“This case is not about a firing zone, it is about taking control of land because unlike other areas, most of this land is privately owned,” said Shlomo Lecker who, along with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, is representing 200 of the Palestinian families under threat of displacement.

“In effect this is land expropriation without compensation.”

Outside the Jerusalem court, dozens of Israeli protesters opposed to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank since a 1967 war held up signs reading, “Families not firing zones” and “Masafer Yatta is not a military playground”.

Israel Planning Mass Expulsion of Bedouins from Jerusalem

Thirty-year-old Naifa Youssef and 50 other members of her Bedouin community live a precarious life, eking out a hand-to-mouth existence alongside the main road which links Jerusalem with the Dead Sea and the ancient city of Jericho.

Home for this community, east of Jerusalem, comprises a collection of shanty structures and hovels as well as tents erected on the rugged and rocky hills which line the road.

These makeshift homes are not connected to the electricity grid or to water and waste infrastructure. In winter the bitter cold rain and howling winds creep into the structures while mud and sewerage build up in pools around the tents.

Water has to be purchased and brought in by hand from the nearest village of Anata, a 15-minute and 5-km taxi journey away costing about two dollars per person.

Youssef’s community lives below the poverty line as the men folk struggle to make ends meet from casual day labour and herding their goats and sheep, with the area they can graze on limited by Israeli settlements.

The community has lived there for 50 years following their expulsion from the Negev Desert in 1948 when the Israeli state was established. The majority of the West Bank’s Bedouin communities were expelled from the Negev Desert during the same year.

Over the next few years, Israel plans to forcibly expel and relocate approximately 27,000 Palestinian Bedouins from Area C of the West Bank to make way for Israeli settlements.

This followed an announcement by the Israeli government in August that it planned to confiscate over 1,000 acres of West Bank land – the biggest land grab by the Jewish state in three decades.

International Condemnation

The United Nations and European Union condemned more than once the Israeli displacement policy and urged Israel to stop the demolitions and evictions.

According to the United Nations, the Israeli authorities reject most Palestinian applications for building permits in “Area C”, a swathe of land making up two-thirds of the West Bank where Israel has full control and where most Jewish settlements are located. In other areas of the West Bank, Palestinians exercise limited self-rule.

UN data also showed that Israel has marked nearly 30% of Area C as military firing zones. The designations have put 38 of the most vulnerable Palestinian communities at increased risk of forced displacement.

Meanwhile, settlements in the area have continued to expand, further restricting Palestinian movement and the space available for residents to farm and graze their sheep and goats.

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