Palestinians to turn to High Court over closure of quarries

Human Rights Watch says legalizing the quarries was the best way to address any safety and environmental issues that might exist.

April 25, 2016 00:45
2 minute read.

THE IDF has closed off this quarry in Beit Fajar near Gush Etzion, one of about 30 that it closed off last month.. (photo credit: HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH)

 The Palestinians of Beit Fajar plan to turn to the High Court of Justice over the IDF’s closure last month of around 30 quarries, their attorney Rony Salman told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.

“The crackdown puts the livelihoods of up to 3,500 workers at risk,” Human Rights Watch said in a report that it issued last week.

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The Civil Administration told the Post that the Beit Fajar quarries are illegal, hazardous and under demolition orders.

It added that it had asked the quarry owners to seek the necessary permits to legalize the quarries, but they have failed to do so.

“That’s simply not true,” Salman said in response.

The quarry owners have sought permits many times over the last decade, but so far, only one of them has received authorization, Salman said.

Last month, the Civil Administration confiscated the equipment the quarry owners use to operate their businesses, the attorney said.

It is now asking the quarry owners to pay three and a half years of extraction fees for the stones that have been removed from the quarries before it will return that equipment.

The fine amounts to millions of shekels, which the quarry owners can not afford to pay, he said.

The quarry owners plan to turn to the High Court after Passover to ask it to waive the fee and to force the Civil Administration to authorize the quarries, he said.

“I want to show the court that they have made all the necessary requests for permits,” he said. “We are also demanding that the court find us a legal solution to the problem.”

Human Rights Watch said legalizing the quarries was the best way to address any safety and environmental issues that might exist.

It charged that the IDF’s actions were a retaliatory act of collective punishment.

The Civil Administration confiscated the equipment from the quarries “on March 21, four day after two residents of Beit Fajar stabbed and wounded an Israeli soldier,” the NGO said.

In November 2015, the Civil Administration raided Beit Fajar and confiscated equipment from the quarries after a resident stabbed an Israeli woman to death at the nearby Gush Etzion junction.

“The timing of the closures raises concerns that the Israeli authorities may be punishing village residents for acts they did not commit. The killing of a passerby is a serious crime whose perpetrator should be held accountable. However, Israeli authorities must not punish those who had nothing to do with it,” Human Rights Watch said.

Sari Bashi, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch, said the IDF has not lived up to its promise to help out the Palestinians economically.

“The Israeli military has promised to facilitate Palestinian economic development, but instead it is choking a Palestinian-run industry in the West Bank while promoting the same industry in Israeli settlements,” she said.

The Civil Administration said that last February it approved planning for four Palestinian quarries, whose owners had submitted requests for temporary licenses.

The requests include basic details such as the desired location for quarrying as well as proofs for ownership over the lands, the Civil Administration said, but it did not provide the location of the quarries.

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