Court upholds eviction of 8 Palestinian villages

By TOVAH LAZAROFF

The High Court of Justice on Thursday upheld a state order to demolish eight unauthorized Palestinian villages in the South Hebron Hills that are located in IDF Firing Zone 918.

It ruled in response to a petition filed on behalf of the villages by the Association of Civil Rights in Israel in 2000. But the court said that the villagers could remain in their homes until November. It also told ACRI that it had the right to refile a petition on behalf of the 1,500 villagers, who herd sheep in the area.

The initial petition involved 12 villages, but in July the Defense Ministry said it would allow four of the villages to use a portion of the firing zone for their homes. The ministry added that it would be problematic to allow the other eight villages to remain.

But the court said that the villagers could remain in their homes until November. It also told ACRI that it had the right to refile a petition on behalf of the 1,500 villagers, who herd sheep in the area.

The initial petition involved 12 villages, but in July the Defense Ministry said it would allow four of the villages to use a portion of the firing zone for their homes. The ministry added that it would be problematic to allow the other eight villages to remain.

Despite the court case, the issue lay dormant for years. It came to a head in the past year as growing Palestinian illegal construction in Firing Zone 918 has conflicted with increased IDF use of the area.

The army has also expressed security concerns with respect to permanent construction in the firing zone.

Still, the state has said it would allow the Palestinians temporary access to the area to herd sheep during times when the military was not using it.

In the past few years international organizations, including the UN, have increasingly highlighted the issue of IDF demolitions of Palestinian structures in West Bank firing zones.

A report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that 45 percent of demolitions of Palestinian-owned structures in Area C of the West Bank since 2010 have occurred in firing zones, displacing 820 Palestinians.

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