The Palestinians have vowed to stay in the West Bank despite defeat in a decades-old legal battle


The head of a Palestinian village council in the West Bank vowed Friday to continue fighting evictions from land that the Israeli army claims is a shooting range, despite an Israeli Supreme Court ruling against the Palestinians in a case that has been in court for more than two years. contracts.

“We will all resist and stay in our lands. We have nowhere else to go,” the head of the Masafer Yatta council, Nidal Abu Younes, told CNN on Friday.

Abu Younis said that “Israel is seeking, through these attempts, to separate the villages in Mount Hebron from the northern Negev in the occupied territories and to break family ties.”

Israel’s High Court of Justice ruled on Wednesday against the Palestinian villagers, accepting the Israeli state’s claim that residents began sitting in the area after it was declared by the army in 1981.

This legal move paves the way for the evacuation of approximately 1,000 Palestinians from eight villages on the outskirts of Hebron.

The United Nations, the European Union and Israeli human rights groups criticized the court’s decision on Thursday.

Lynne Hastings, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, said Palestinian petitioners, having exhausted domestic legal remedies, are now “unprotected and at risk of imminent displacement”.

It called on Israel to “stop demolitions and evictions in the occupied Palestinian territories, in line with its obligations under international law.”

The European Union said the eviction of Palestinians would amount to “forcible transfer from their homes and destruction of their communities,” which it said was prohibited under international law.

The European bloc said: “As the occupying power, Israel has a duty to protect the Palestinian population, not to displace it.”

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel – which represented the Palestinian villagers in court – accused the court of approving a move that would “leave families, children and the elderly without a roof over their heads”. She said the ruling was “extraordinary and would have serious consequences.”

Tensions between Israel and the Palestinians have risen after a series of violent incidents in recent weeks. Dozens have been killed in attacks in Israel and the West Bank since March 22.

Israeli soldiers take part in a military exercise in Masafer Yatta near Hebron, February 2, 2021.

The evacuation of Palestinian residents would separate Hebron from other villages on the southern fringes of the city.

Supreme Court Justices David Mintz, Ofer Groscoff and Yitzhak Amit not only on Wednesday rejected Palestinian claims that they lived in the area prior to 1981, but also ordered each of them to pay 20,000 shekels ($5,900) in expenses.

We never believed that the Israeli courts would do us justice. “The decision did not come as a surprise to any of us,” said Abu Younis, head of the council.

“We, the Musafir families, have papers proving our ownership of our land,” he insisted.

The Supreme Court rejected this assertion.

Masafer Yatta’s families have provided aerial footage as evidence that villages have been in the area for 45 years. But Israel argued that Palestinian residents began to seize the area after declaring it Firing Zone 918, and that until then it was only used as seasonal pasture lands for their livestock.

Judge Mintz said in the court ruling that the question of whether the area was a permanent place of residence was “not complicated at all,” because aerial footage from the area prior to 1980 shows no indication that a resident was there. Mintz also noted that the Air Force used the area to launch simulated airstrikes in the 1990s.

The court rejected the claim that turning the area into a closed military zone is inconsistent with international law, and said that when international law conflicts with Israeli law, the latter prevails.

The Palestinians argued that they and their families had lived in these villages, whose homes were built inside natural caves, since before the creation of Israel in 1948.

While the area was declared a firing zone by the Israeli military in 1981, residents remained relatively quiet until the late 1990s, according to the Supreme Court ruling.

But in 1999, the army and civil administration expelled more than 700 residents.

The military reduced the size of the proposed firing zone in April 2012, at which time Israel requested the demolition of eight villages instead of 12.

The Supreme Court then suggested that the Palestinians withdraw their legal claim, but two more petitions were filed in 2013. The court rejected them.

In its decision, the Supreme Court accepted the army’s position that the land was essential to its needs.

On Friday, Abu Younis said the villagers would continue to resist despite the legal defeat.

The soldiers evacuated the villagers by truck to other areas [in 1999]But the residents returned the same night despite the occupation.” “The same thing will happen if this court decision becomes a reality.”

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