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Israel court rules settlers can occupy Palestinians’ Hebron homes 

July 22, 2019 at 2:12 pm

Settlers gather outside a Palestinian home after they evicted its legal owners and took it over in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron on 26 July 2017 [Mamoun Wazwaz /Anadolu Agency]

Israel’s Supreme Court has ruled that illegal settlers can continue to occupy two Palestinian homes in the West Bank city of Hebron until legal disputes have been resolved.

The court ruled yesterday that the settlers – who are occupying two Palestinian homes on Hebron’s Al-Shuhadah Street, in the south of the occupied West Bank – can remain in the properties until legal disputes are settled.

The settlers moved in to the two properties in March last year, claiming the Za’tari family had sold the property rights to the Jewish Land Redemption Fund Association in 2008. Israel’s Civil Administration – which administers the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) – initially argued that the fund had legally purchased the Za’tari family’s properties.

The family, however, contests these claims and stresses that it never sold the rights to its properties to the fund. The family has submitted numerous complaints to Israel Police and the Israeli Defence Ministry, but to no avail.

In June 2018, the Za’tari family then took the case to Israel’s Supreme Court; the family’s lawyer, Samar Shehadeh, explained that “while the Civil Administration had authorized the purchase, the property had not yet been registered, and the bureaucratic process of transferring ownership had not been completed”. He therefore argued that Israel Police and the Israeli army “should have evacuated the buildings and returned them to the status quo,” thus giving them back to the Za’tari family.

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However, as Arutz Sheva explained, the Supreme Court yesterday “did not address the question of whether the property had been legally sold, focusing solely on whether the security forces had to evacuate the settlers from the property.”

“The state argued to the court that there was no clear evidence showing the Za’tari family had possession of the property when the Hebron Jews moved in,” the Jerusalem Post reported. “In light of the evidence presented, an evacuation would have only served to help one of the parties in the dispute, the state argued.”

One of the Supreme Court Justices, Noam Solberg, wrote in his decision that “the very existence of this ambiguity is sufficient to justify the police’s decision to withdraw […] without intervening […] in such matters, refraining from doing anything is preferable.”

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This is not the first time Israel’s courts have ruled in favour of Hebron’s illegal settlers.

Earlier this month, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court overturned the conviction of a settler filmed stoning Palestinian cars in Hebron. This came following a report by the probation officer that the accused “takes responsibility for committing the crime”; the settler was therefore sentenced to pay 400 shekels ($112) in compensation to two Palestinian car owners whose vehicles were vandalised.

The case dates back to 2014, when settler activist Noam Federman and his son Oved “hurled rocks at parked Palestinian cars”, allegedly in response to having stones thrown at them by Palestinians.

The defendant was represented by Itamar Ben Gvir – a notorious far-right activist who often defends settlers in court. Ben Gvir is a member of the Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party, a descendent of the outlawed Kach party whose ideology inspired the 1994 Ibrahimi Mosque massacre in which 29 Palestinians were killed during dawn prayer.

Ben Gvir has previously defended Yinon Reuveni, who was convicted of carrying out an arson attack on a church near Tiberias in 2015, and Amiram Ben-Uliel, a member of the “hilltop youth” movement currently under investigation for carrying out the arson attack against the Dawabsheh family in 2015.

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