Israeli court's backing of Palestinian evictions condemned by EU

The case of Masafer Yatta, or Firing Zone 918, is one of Israel's longest-running legal battles

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The EU has condemned an Israeli court's approval of the eviction of more than 1,000 Palestinians to make way for a military training zone.

The case of Masafer Yatta, or Firing Zone 918, a farming area near Hebron in the occupied West Bank, has been one of Israel's longest-running legal battles.

In the early 1980s the army declared the territory measuring 30 square kilometres a restricted military area and claimed it was uninhabited.

The roughly 1,000 Palestinians living there said it was their people's home long before Israeli soldiers set foot in the West Bank, which the Israelis have occupied since 1967.

Israel captured the territory from Jordan in the Six-Day War and the West bank is now home to more than 475,000 settlers ― Jewish Israelis living in communities widely regarded as illegal under international law.

Residents of eight villages had been in court for about 20 years fighting Israeli government efforts to evict them.

"The Israeli Supreme Court issued last week [May 4] made a decision on the Masafer Yatta eviction case in the South Hebron Hills in the occupied West Bank, increasing the risk of the forced transfer of some 1,200 Palestinians and the demolition of their homes," an EU representative said.

The Palestinian village of Jinba, part of the Masafer Yatta area in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. AFP

"Settlement expansion, demolitions and evictions are illegal under international law. The EU condemns such possible plans and urges Israel to cease demolitions and evictions, in line with its obligations under international humanitarian and international human rights law."

The statement said that "the establishment of a firing zone cannot be considered an 'imperative military reason' to transfer the population under occupation."

Ali Mohammed Jabbareen, 60, has lived in the Palestinian village of Jinba in the Masafer Yatta area for more than two decades, but now fears an Israeli court decision may finally force him to go.

"We have no information about the demolitions," he told AFP.

Army units with clearance to destroy his home, "could come at any time", he said.

Ali Mohammed Jabbareen at his home in the Palestinian village of Jinba, part of the Masafer Yatta area in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. AFP

Masafer Yatta residents say their families lived in the area even as control of the West Bank changed hands, from the British mandate period through Jordanian rule from 1948 to 1967, the year the Israeli occupation began.

The isolated community is in the West Bank's "Area C", which is under full Israeli control, and is more than an hour's drive from the nearest paved road.

Few of the homes are connected to a water supply system or power grid.

Mr Jabbareen built his house into a rocky outcrop in the heart of his farmland. It is currently home to 12 people, who scratch out a living raising sheep and growing vegetables.

"This is my land and they want to expel me from it," he said.

Updated: May 11, 2022, 4:04 AM