masked settler hebron 88.
(photo credit: )
Supreme Court Justice Hanan Meltzer on Wednesday demanded to know why settlers who have intimidated Palestinian farmers and trespassed on their land have not been arrested or had other measures taken against them.
Meltzer is one of a panel of three justices, including Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch and Esther Hayut, who are hearing petition filed by Rabbis for Human Rights and 12 farmers from Yatta village in the Hebron hills.
They have accused settlers from Sussiya and the illegal outpost of Mitzpeh Ya'ir of violating a military order declaring a 40-dunam area of private land belonging to the Palestinian farmers off limits.
The petition was filed on August 1, 2007. However, last month, the petitioners asked for an urgent hearing, charging that settlers had violated the order 16 times since it was issued and that they had perpetrated a concentrated number of attacks against the Palestinian farmers in the first three weeks of August.
"The petitioners documented violent incidents after the military order was published, and especially between March and August," their attorney, Kuamar Mishrirqi-Assad wrote.
"[There were] incidents of destruction of yields, physical violence including assault, killing of sheep, prevention of access and systematic expulsion by the army and the settlers.
"One year after the military order was issued, it is clear that it is not at all effective, due to the fact that the state does not intend to enforce it."
Turning to the state's representative, attorney Dana Briskman, Meltzer said, "But you know who the assailants are. You can identify them. There are things you can do aside from interrogating them."
"It is not so simple," she replied.
Briskman denied that the army acted against the Palestinians.
"When we see that serious violence is about to erupt between the settlers and the Palestinians [in the land reserved exclusively for the Palestinian farmers,] we close the area to both sides. "The army is trying," she continued. "In the wake of the incidents in August, the soldiers who go into the area are briefed. Obviously we can't prevent every incident. We ask the local residents [Palestinians] to alert the army."
Mishrirqi-Assad said, "These people cannot enter their own land and neither the police nor the army are of any help."
The third respondent in the petition, Moshe Deutch, is embroiled in a legal battle with Yatta villagers over ownership of some of the land in the area. He cultivates a young vineyard and has received permission to tend to it one hour a day. The petitioners accuse him of being one of the settlers who attack them.
Deutch's lawyer, Ori Stendahl, strenuously denied the allegations.
At the end of the hearing, the court ordered the state to provide two affidavits, one from the O/C Central Command providing a detailed operational plan for protecting the Palestinian farmers, and another from the police listing the complaints that have been lodged against settlers and what they have done about them.
The state was given 40 days to submit the affidavits.
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