The High Court of Justice on Thursday upheld a state order to demolish eight
unauthorized Palestinian villages in the South Hebron Hills that are located in
IDF Firing Zone 918.
It ruled in response to a petition filed on behalf
of the villages by the Association of Civil Rights in Israel in 2000.
the court said that the villagers could remain in their homes until November. It
also told ACRI that it had the right to refile a petition on behalf of the 1,500
villagers, who herd sheep in the area.
The initial petition involved 12
villages, but in July the Defense Ministry said it would allow four of the
villages to use a portion of the firing zone for their homes. The ministry added
that it would be problematic to allow the other eight villages to
Despite the court case, the issue lay dormant for years. It came
to a head in the past year as growing Palestinian illegal construction in Firing
Zone 918 has conflicted with increased IDF use of the area.
The army has
also expressed security concerns with respect to permanent construction in the
Still, the state has said it would allow the Palestinians
temporary access to the area to herd sheep during times when the military was
not using it.
In the past few years international organizations,
including the UN, have increasingly highlighted the issue of IDF demolitions of
Palestinian structures in West Bank firing zones.
A report by the UN
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that 45 percent of
demolitions of Palestinian-owned structures in Area C of the West Bank since
2010 have occurred in firing zones, displacing 820 Palestinians.
report added that 38 villages with a total population of 5,000 are located in
West Bank IDF firing zones.
Under the Oslo Accords, Israeli has complete
civil and military control over Area C.
ACRI said it plans to file a new
petition with regard to the eight villages. It added that it believed the
court’s decision was a technical one, that allowed for a new case that focused
on the eight villages.
It noted that in the decision, Justice Uzi
Vogelman wrote, “There is no stand taken by the court in its decision to reject
the petition. This is made clear by the petitioners being allowed to submit
another petition to the court.”
On Wednesday, the heads of 15 European
missions located in east Jerusalem traveled to Firing Zone 918 to learn about
After the visit, they issued a statement on behalf of the EU
that called on Israel not to demolish the villages and to do more to protect and
encourage Palestinian development of Area C.
“The EU calls upon Israel to
meet its obligations regarding the living conditions of the Palestinian
population in Area C, by a policy shift entailing accelerated approval of
Palestinian master plans, halting forced transfer of population and demolition
of Palestinian housing and infrastructure, simplifying administrative procedures
to obtain building permits, ensuring access to water and addressing humanitarian
needs,” the EU said in the statement.