A Tel Aviv District Court returned 9.5 hectares (about 23.5 acres) of land near the Alfei Menashe settlement to Palestinian descendants of the original owners, after discovering that initial purchase papers were forged.

The court in a 15-page ruling publicized on April 3 found that the “fraud” and “forgery” had taken place with respect to a 2001 purchase of the property by the GRA real estate company.

In 1960 the land was initially registered to three Palestinian owners, who then left for Jordan, according to the court.

After the Six Day War, the land was transferred to the custodian of abandoned property to preserve it for its owners, the court affirmed.

GRA purchased the property in the summer of 2001 for approximately $95,000 from a third party, a Palestinian in Kalkilya. The company provided documents that showed he had power of attorney from the Palestinian owners to handle the sale, the court said.

GRA received initial approval for their purchase documents from the civil administration in 2002.

In 2006, a second real estate company, Harei Bracha, purchased the property from GRA for $400,000, but did not receive a purchase permit from the civil administration, the court claimed.

Harei Bracha only paid $150,000 of the purchase price, the court said.

The GRA owners and a shareholder and a manager at Harei Bracha had been business partners in a different real estate company. At the time of the land purchases, neither company had permission from the civil administration to carry out business dealings in Judea and Samaria, the court noted.

The descendants of the initial Palestinian owners filed suit against the companies in 2006, but hearings only began in 2010.

The court held that the legal proceedings showed that the signatures for the 2001 sale — allegedly by the three original owners of the property — were forged. It turned out that all three Palestinian owners had died in the 1980s. Ali Yousef al- Khatib in 1981, Joseph Kamal al-Khatib in 1986 and Asad Mahmoud Issa in 1989.

They also said there were forgery issues with the signature of the Palestinian middleman from Kalkilya.

The court also found many technical legal problems with the 2006 sale.

It absolved both sales, and ordered the defendants to pay NIS 60,000 to the plaintiffs.

Alfei Menashe Council head Shlomo Kattan said that while the property in question was located near his community, his council was not involved in the project.

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