Sunday, July 12, 2020

In defiance of State order and Supreme Court decision, settlers rebuild road on Palestinian owned land

By Jan Walraven - April 07, 2014
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [outposts] [Yesh Din] [settlements]

Settlers join forces to resist the demolition of illegal buildings at the outpost of Amona in 2006.

Less than a month ago a team from the Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din found that settlers from the illegal West Bank outpost of Amona had reopened an access road located on Palestinian owned land. The roadblock had been removed and the road was being used despite  a July 2013 ruling by the Israeli high court that demanding its closure. 

In a letter to the attorney of Yesh Din, Israeli Deputy Attorney General Dina Zilber wrote that this "criminal construction" is intolerable, "particularly given that it is a repeat offense and a violation of their obligation to the court."

"We have no idea when exactly the settlers removed the roadblock," Yesh Din spokesperson Reut Mor told the Palestine Monitor in a telephone interview. "The settlement is located in an area where all the lands are owned by Palestinians. After the July 2013 ruling, the court therefore provided a solution to the settlers, as they were allowed to reach their houses via a public, one-way agricultural road. But the settlers have been widening and improving this road, taking over even more Palestinian owned land," Mor added. Her organization has been helping and representing the Palestinian landowners in this long drawn court case.

The approximately 40 houses of the Amona outpost are illegal even under Israeli law, and were are all built on Palestinian owned land.

In its 2013 ruling, Israel’s Supreme Court demanded the evacuation of all the structures in Amona, except for the 5 houses built on plots for which the Amona settlers made purchase claims. The Jerusalem Magistrates’ Court still has to decide on the legality of these purchase claims.

"It is a deliberate tactic to postpone a definitive court decision," Mor said, adding that the same tactic has been used in other outpost court cases, like Migron. "A few days before the verdict settlers suddenly came up with purchase claims, which we believe are fake and thus illegal. But now it has to be officially investigated if these claims are true or false, effectively postponing a final verdict," Mor explained.

Final verdict pending

After the ruling in July 2013, the Attorney General only ordered the demolition of structures built on Palestinian lands owned by the petitioners, which amounted to one structure and the access road, which has now been rebuilt by the settlers. The 2013 ruling divided the settlement de facto into three parts. Lands claimed to be purchased by settlers, lands owned by Palestinians who didn't petition the High Court, and finally lands owned by the petitioning Palestinians. The largest part of the settlement’s land is owned by Palestinians who did not participate in Yesh Din’s petition to the High Court. 

Yesh Din is nevertheless calling for the evacuation of the entire illegal outpost, but is awaiting a final verdict. Mor expects the court will initially decide on the evacuation of about 30 of the houses, while a decision on the fate of the 5 structures built on land claimed to be purchased by settlers could take years.

Yesh Din petitioned the High Court already back in 2008, representing Palestinians from the three neighbouring villages of Silwad, Ein Yabrud and Taybeh, on whose privately owned lands the Amona outpost was built in 1995.

Eventually, the Migron outpost was evacuated in 2012, thirteen years after it's foundation. Situated north of Jerusalem and with a population of about 300 people, it was one of the largest illegal outposts in the West Bank. In 2011 the Supreme Court ruled that Migron was illegally built on lands owned by Palestinians of the village of Burqa, ordering its evacuation by April 2012. Despite government attempts to postpone the evacuation, the evacuation was eventually completed by September 2012. The settlers were all offered new homes in a nearby settlement.

It is to be seen if Amona will face the same fate. 

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