Masafer Yatta (The Inside Palestine)- More than 1,000 Palestinians live in fear of being expelled from their lands and homes at any time after the Israeli Supreme Court rejected a petition against their expulsion from a rural part of the occupied West Bank in an area that Israel has designated for military drills.
After nearly 20 years of inconclusive legal maneuvers, the Supreme Court issued its ruling late on Wednesday, May 4, paving the way for the demolition of eight small villages in a barren, rocky area near Al-Khalil, known to Palestinians as Masafer Yatta.
In its verdict, the court said it found that the Palestinian residents, who have maintained a developed lifestyle in the area for many generations and make a living from farming and agriculture, were not permanent residents of the area when the Israeli army declared it a firing zone in the 80s.
Last Thursday, the European Union and the United Nations rejected the Israeli judicial verdict paving the way for the displacement of hundreds of Palestinians from the Masafer Yatta area in the southern occupied West Bank.
“Under international law, individual or mass forcible transfers and deportation of protected persons from occupied territories are prohibited, regardless of their motive. As the occupying power, Israel has the obligation to protect the Palestinian population & not displace it.”
Residents of Masafer Yatta and Israeli rights organizations say that many Palestinian families have lived continuously in the 3,000-hectare region since before “Israel” occupied the West Bank in 1967. Their expulsion would be a violation of international law.
One of Al-Fukheit village residents in Masafer Yatta, Mahmud Abu Sabha, says, “The news hit us like a truck. We were not expecting such oppressive news. They displace people from lands they have been living in all their lives.”
He added, “This land is a source of living for people who raise goats and work in agriculture. They have no alternative; they cannot take the goats and go live in downtown.”
The court stated that the door was still open for the villagers and the military to reach an agreement on using portions of the property for agricultural purposes, and urged both parties to seek a solution.
Masafer Yatta residents confirmed they will not leave their land and homes. Ali Al-Jabbarin, one of the residents of the threatened area complained, “I have become a refugee in 1967, and they want me to become again a refugee in the 20s. How can they judge a land that has identification papers for a long time? We even have papers from Britain and from Turkey.”
Al-Jabbarin stressed that no matter what they give him in return, only wants his land, his olive trees, and his goats, insisting he doesn’t want to leave his land, where he was born.
“The decision will have unprecedented consequences,” said the Association for Civil Rights Israel (ACRI), emphasizing that the “Israeli court officially allowed that families, including their kids and elderlies, be left alone without roofs above their heads.”