A new Israeli court ruling paves the way for the forcible transfer of Palestinians in the southern West Bank area of Masafer Yatta, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) has warned today.
Israel’s High Court of Justice dismissed on Wednesday all the petitions against the forcible transfer of up to 1,200 Palestinians in a large part of Masafer Yatta that Israel has declared a closed military zone.
The Israeli army has been trying to drive Palestinians out of Masafer Yatta for at least 40 years, since designating 7,400 acres of privately-owned Palestinian agricultural land as “Firing Zone 918”. Residents of the area have recently told NRC that declaring most of the area as a closed military training zone was merely an excuse for Israel to take over their land.
“This court ruling effectively opens the door for the Israeli military to uproot entire Palestinian communities that have lived in Masafer Yatta for decades. The damage this decision will inflict on people’s homes and source of livelihoods is irredeemable. People could be made homeless overnight with nowhere for them to go,” said Caroline Ort, NRC’s Country Director for Palestine.
“This is a dangerous step that must be reversed. If followed through, it would constitute a violation of international law which prohibits Israel as an occupying power from transferring members of the occupied population from their existing communities against their will,” added Ort.
Daily Israeli military restrictions and repressive policies in Masafer Yatta continue to undermine residents’ physical security, lower their standard of living, and increase their poverty levels and dependence on humanitarian aid, NRC said. Israel authorities have demolished or confiscated 217 Palestinian structures in Firing Zone 918 since 2011, displacing 608 Palestinian residents, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Israel has designated nearly 30 per cent of Area C in the occupied West Bank as “firing zones”, according to the UN. At least 38 Palestinian communities are located within these areas. Many of the communities have been in these areas for decades before the firing zone designations and even before Israel occupied the West Bank.
The West Bank Protection Consortium, led by NRC, has been supporting these communities through the provision of material and legal assistance. The consortium was formed to prevent the forcible transfer of Palestinians in the West Bank. It is a strategic partnership of five international NGOs, 10 EU donors, the United Kingdom, and EU Humanitarian Aid.
Source: Norwegian Refugee Council