The High Court of Justice on Monday took a step in favor of the 1,000
Palestinians in eight villages in the South Hebron Hills under threat of an IDF
eviction from Firing Zone 918 when it suggested that the case would be better
handled through mediation than in its chambers.
During a debate at the
court in Jerusalem, Justice Asher Grunis stopped state attorney Illil Amir-Kasif
as she began arguing the state’s position that Firing Zone 918 was necessary for
IDF training and that therefore the area needed to be evacuated.
suggested to Kasif that mediation through a retired Supreme Court judge might be
a more proper channel to come to a resolution.
Kasif said that attempts
to mediate the issue in the past had failed.
Grunis gave the state until
October 7 to present its position on the matter. The attorneys for the
Palestinians, in turn, said they would accept mediation.
“We were pleased
by the suggestion,” said Mark Grey, a spokesman for the Association for Civil
Rights in Israel, an Israeli NGO that filed a petition before the court
regarding the fate of the Palestinians.
The issue dates back to 1999,
when the IDF first issued eviction orders. ACRI filed an initial petition in
2000, but the case lay mostly dormant until 2011, when the IDF again actively
sought to evict the Palestinians.
ACRI refiled its petition in 2012. On
Monday, its attorney, Tamar Feldman, argued that the Palestinians had lived in
the area for generations, since before 1967, and should be allowed to remain
since their presence predated the IDF declaration of a firing zone. The
Palestinians use the land for herding and agriculture, she
Feldman noted that there are 9 million dunams set aside for
firing zones in Israel, out of which a million are in the West Bank. Firing Zone
918 makes up only 26,000 dunams, Feldman argued, asking how it could be so
The forcible relocation of these families is against international
law, she continued.
Amir-Kasif argued that the Palestinians had used that
land but only began building permanent structures there once the IDF declared it
to be a firing zone.
Simultaneous to the work that ACRI is doing on the
case, Rabbis for Human Rights is working to develop zoning plans for the
villages so they could become legally authorized.
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