Israeli high court rejects south Hebron village petition

12:00 Aug 9 2012 Khirbet al-Majaz, Khirbet al-Tabban, Sfai, Khirbet al-Fakheit, Halaweh, Mirkez, Jinba, and Kharoubeh

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israel's High Court on Thursday rejected a petition against the removal of Palestinian villagers from the southern West Bank by the Israeli army, but stressed further legal challenges were still open.

The ruling allows villagers in the south Hebron hills to remain in their villages until November 1, when an order blocking their displacement will expire.

The court said it was not taking a position on the wider dispute, in which the Israeli government has ordered demolition of eight of the 12 villages in an area the army designates as a military training zone.

Tamar Feldman, a legal director for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel who filed the petition, insisted: "It is the full legal right of all of the residents of these villagers to remain on the land that they have owned for generations and use it for their livelihood."

"There is no justification, legal or moral, for evacuating and displacing residents from their homes and their lands – whether we are talking about 12 villages or 8," she said.

Residents of the south Hebron hills have fought a long battle to remain in their homes.

In 1999, over 700 residents were evicted due to "illegal residence in a firing zone" and Israeli forces confiscated property and demolished buildings and wells.

Israel's High Court issued an interim injunction, and Israeli forces allowed named petitioners to return but not their relatives.

In July, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told the court the army plans to demolish Khirbet al-Majaz, Khirbet al-Tabban, Sfai, Khirbet al-Fakheit, Halaweh, Mirkez, Jinba, and Kharoubeh.

The Israeli state says the residents are squatters from the nearby town of Yatta, while lawyers for the villagers say their rural communities pre-date the establishment of the state of Israel.
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