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Masafer Yatta: Israel hands notices to Palestinians ahead of demolition and eviction

Israel's Supreme Court recently issued a ruling paving the way for the desctruction of eight small villages in Masafer Yatta
Ali Mohammed Jabbareen, 60, walks at the Palestinian village of Jinba, part of the Masafer Yatta area in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, on 9 May, 2022. (AFP)
Ali Mohammed Jabbareen, 60, walks at the Palestinian village of Jinba, part of the Masafer Yatta area in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, on 9 May 2022 (AFP)

Israeli authorities have told Palestinian residents in the area of Masafer Yatta to stop any ongoing construction of homes, agricultural buildings, and sheep pens ahead of an order to demolish and evict the community.

Around 19 notices were handed out on Wednesday to residents of Khirbet Umm Qassa, part of the community of Masafer Yatta, a rocky, arid area near Hebron in the occupied West Bank that Israel has designated a zone for military exercises.

Last week, the Supreme Court rejected a petition against the eviction of more than 1,000 Palestinian inhabitants from the community.

After two decades of inconclusive legal maneuvering, the Supreme Court's ruling paved the way for the demolition of eight small villages in Masafer Yatta.

In its ruling, the court said local Palestinians - who have kept a generations-old, nomadic way of life, making a living from farming and herding - had not been permanent residents of the area when the Israeli military first declared it a firing zone in the 1980s.

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Masafer Yatta residents and Israeli rights groups say that many of the Palestinian families have been permanently residing in the 3,000-hectare area since before Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East War.

Their eviction would constitute a breach of international law.

In a statement, the Israeli rights group B'Tselem, said that "the justices have thus proved once again that the occupied cannot expect justice from the occupier's court.

"The decision, weaving baseless legal interpretation with decontextualised facts, makes it clear that there is no crime which the high court justices will not find a way to legitimise."

Home demolitions, confiscation of the most basic infrastructure, and military training exercises are already part of everyday reality in the area, forcing many to live in natural caves.

Israeli authorities have demolished or confiscated 217 Palestinian structures in "Firing Zone 918" since 2011, displacing 608 Palestinian residents, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Israel has designated nearly 30 percent of Israel-administered Area C, which comprises 60 percent of the occupied West Bank, as "firing zones", according to the UN. 

At least 38 Palestinian communities are located within these areas.

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