High Court Allows Expulsion of Over 1,000 Palestinians From Army Firing Zone

YERUSHALAYIM

View of the Palestinian city of Yatta. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

The High Court ruled late Wednesday night that the IDF could evict around 1,300 Palestinians living in eight villages in the South Chevron Hills, after a legal battle lasting more than 20 years.

In a unanimous decision, Justice David Mintz wrote that the Palestinian petitioners had not successfully proved they had lived in the villages as permanent residents before the IDF declared the area a training zone in the area in the early 1980s.

The Palestinians have maintained that their presence in the villages goes back decades. The IDF, by contrast, argued that they had occasionally entered the area during seasonal migration — meaning they had no rights to the land.

Palestinians living in the firing zone’s eight villages slammed the decision.

The IDF has said it is willing to permit the local Palestinians to return to cultivate the land and herd livestock there on Shabbos and on chagim, when the army does not conduct drills.

The court also dismissed the Palestinians’ argument that mass eviction would violate a widely held prohibition against population transfer in international law. Mintz ruled the ban sought to prevent atrocities such as genocide and thus had “nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with the issue before us.”

For more than two decades, the IDF, Palestinians and rights groups have wrangled over the legality of expelling the Palestinians living within the firing zone, known as Zone 918.

With almost all construction illegal, Israeli authorities regularly tore up houses, electrical cables and pipes intended to bring water to the hilltop villages.

The area stretches over 33,000 dunams amid the hillsides near the Palestinian city of Yatta, near Chevron.

The IDF first declared the area a firing zone in the early 1980s. In 1999, the army’s Yehudah and Shomron administration issued eviction notices to the Palestinian residents. After a wide-ranging demolition operation, the residents appealed to the High Court, where the two sides have fought it out ever since.

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