Settlers have begun removing illegally built recreational structures near the
disputed Ein al-Kis well in the Nabi Salih area, the state informed the High
Court of Justice during a hearing on Thursday.
The state said it would
provide a progress update on the removal of the structures within 30
The hearing was one in a series involving a June 2011 petition
against the well, filed by Yesh Din on behalf of the villagers of Nabi Salih and
Deir Nidam, for removal of the recreational area that residents of the Halamish
settlement built nearby. An earlier petition against the well was also filed by
Yesh Din in December 2010.
According to Yesh Din, the controversy started
about three years ago, when Jewish settlers from the West Bank settlement of
Halamish attempted to take over the well by turning it into a tourist and
recreational site and by building illegal structures around it.
said that recently a new pool was excavated near the well, whose walls were
lined with concrete, ignoring the impact on any potential archeological
In the first petition, Yesh Din said the land was private
Palestinian land and the new recreational facilities were an attempted land-grab,
preventing Palestinians from accessing their land.
Following Yesh Din’s
filing of the first petition, the settlers and the state responded by having the
site declared an archeological site in March 2011.
According to Yesh Din,
the March 2011 response by the state also recognized an obligation to guard the
status quo on the land, to comply with Israel’s obligation under international
law to preserve historical sites.
That announcement led Yesh Din to
withdraw its first petition, under the rationale that the declaration of the
area as a historical site meant an end to the illegal building.
Din eventually filed the current petition saying that the settlers were building
again, harming the archeological site and violating their earlier commitment
with their recreational construction.
Besides the case before the High
Court, the controversy has led to weekly demonstrations by the Nabi Salih
villagers, frequent altercations between the villagers and the IDF, and even
some deadly incidents.
Eventually, the IDF started to prevent Palestinian
villagers from approaching the well, as well as a newly created security zone
near the well.
In November 2012, during Operation Pillar of Defense,
Rushdi Tamimi was killed while the IDF was trying to do crowd control of an
The Tamimi family is one of the most important in
the village, and includes protest leader Bassem Tamimi, who has been arrested
repeatedly by Israel, and Mustafa Tamimi, who died after being hit in the face
by a tear gas canister while chasing an IDF jeep during a protest in December
At an earlier hearing on September 5, 2012, the court issued an
interim order prohibiting the Halamish settlers from doing any additional
building in the area of the well.
Recently, the settlers filed a formal
request to build recreational structures around the well, but the request was
According to Yesh Din, the state itself said in hearings related
to the current petition that the settlers had failed to prove that they owned
the land where they wished to build.
It also said that the land was
outside the designated area for building relating to the Halamish
Yesh Din attorney Shlomi Zachariah praised the state for
starting to enforce the law “regarding the illegally built structures” that were
pushing more “Palestinians off their land.”
Zachariah criticized the
state for what he called the delay in enforcement, but added it was “better late
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this article.