Masafer Yatta: Israel Supreme Court paves way for expulsion of over 1,000 Palestinians near Hebron
Israel's Supreme Court has rejected a petition against the expulsion of more than 1,000 Palestinians living in a rural part of the illegally occupied West Bank in an area which Israel has designated for military exercises.
After two decades of inconclusive legal manoeuvring, the Supreme Court issued its ruling late on Wednesday, paving the way for the demolition of eight small Palestinian villages in a rocky, arid area south of Hebron city called Masafer Yatta.
In its ruling, the court said it considered that the Palestinian Bedouins living in the area, who have kept a distinct, generations-long nomadic way of life, making a living from farming and herding, had not been permanent residents of the area when the Israeli military, whose presence in the West Bank violates international law, first declared it a firing zone in the 1980s.
Masafer Yatta residents and Israeli rights groups say that many of the Palestinian families have been permanently residing in the 3,000 hectares (7,400 acres) area since before Israel captured Palestine's West Bank in 1967, and that their expulsion would constitute a breach of international law.
"This proves that this court is part of the occupation," said Nidal Abu Younis, Masafer Yatta Mayor. "We are not going to leave our homes. We will stay here," he said.
The court said the door was still open for the villagers to agree with the military on using parts of the land for agricultural purposes and urged the sides to seek a compromise, despite the area being Palestinian territory.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), who along with Masafer Yatta residents petitioned against the expulsion, said the verdict would have "unprecedented consequences."
"The High Court has officially authorized leaving entire families, with their children and their elderly, without a roof over their heads," ACRI said in a statement.
Another group of settlers stormed the nearby village of Tiwani, the east of Masafer Yatta, and also set up a Star of David sign on Palestinian land https://t.co/qJSPbs0d94— The New Arab (@The_NewArab) May 5, 2022
It comes as Israeli settlers set up a mobile home in the Masafer Yatta area on Wednesday evening, in a move Palestinians say will lead to a new illegal settlement.
Israelis who live in the nearby illegal settlements of Ma'on and Havat Maon built the structure as a pretext for seizing the land, coordinator of the Anti-Wall and Settlement Committees in southern Hebron, Rateb Al-Jabour, told official Palestinian news agency Wafa.
They put up a large Star of David sign to mark that the area was taken over by settlers.
(The New Arab, Reuters)