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Dozens of Democrats urge US to prevent Palestinian evictions in Masafer Yatta

Lawmakers say evictions could spark tension, conflict and war - while undermining prospects for two state solution
Masafer Yatta
An Israeli soldier chases a protester in the Masafer Yatta on 13 May, 2022, following an Israeli High Court decision to evict roughly 1,000 Palestinian villagers to make way for a military training zone (AFP)

Dozens of Democratic lawmakers have called on the administration of US President Joe Biden to work to prevent the evictions of 1,000 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

Earlier this month, Israel announced plans to build 4,000 new settlement units in the West Bank and demolish at least 12 villages in Hebron's Masafer Yatta district.

A cluster of Palestinian hamlets mainly working in agriculture, Masafer Yatta is disconnected from any water, electricity and sewage networks due to an Israeli ban on Palestinian construction in the area. 

In a letter sent to Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday, 83 lawmakers - 2o members of the Senate and 63 House members - condemned Israel's plan to evict Palestinians ahead of the visit by US President Joe Biden to Israel next month.

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"As supporters of a strong U.S.-Israel relationship, we believe such evictions undermine our shared democratic values, imperil Israel's security, and disregard Palestinian human and civil rights," said the letter, led by Senator Jeff Merkley and Representative Melanie Stansbury.

"We are deeply concerned that this relocation of Palestinian families from homes they have lived on for generations could spark violence, is in direct violation of international humanitarian law, and could further undermine efforts to reach a two-state solution," it added. 

Decades of tensions around demolitions came to a head this month after the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that authorities could begin evicting Palestinians from Masafer Yatta to make room for a military training ground. 

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, they say, constitute a breach of international law.

In a statement earlier this month, the Israeli rights group B'Tselem condemned the High Court ruling on the destruction of Palestinian homes "for the clear purpose of taking over their lands in the service of Jewish interests".

"The justices have thus proved once again that the occupied cannot expect justice from the occupier's court," the rights group said.

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