A petition submitted to the Israeli High Court of Justice on behalf of six Palestinian villages in Area C of the occupied West Bank urges the Israel Defence Forces, the Israel Police and other state entities to protect Palestinians from harassment and displacement caused by violence perpetrated by extremist settlers and Israeli soldiers.
According to the Times of Israel, the legal action initiated by Israeli NGO Haqel is in response to the surge in settler violence against Palestinian civilians. More than 1,000 Palestinians have been displaced from 15 communities in the West Bank since 7 October.
“Residents of all these communities are gripped by fear and severe trepidation during these times, out of a fear that at any given moment, settlers and soldiers are likely to break into their homes, attack them violently, as has happened to all the communities that have been expelled, and order them to leave their homes,” the petition explains.
The petition was submitted on behalf of 26 residents from the Palestinian villages of Susya, Wadi Jheish, Zanuta, Shi’b Al-Butum, Tha’la and Qawawis in the South Hebron Hills region.
Palestinians within Area C of the West Bank, specifically in the South Hebron Hills and Jordan Valley regions, have reported violent attacks by extremist settlers and IDF reservists, who target Palestinian property, village infrastructure such as water storage facilities and solar panels, agricultural equipment, livestock and produce. Moreover, residents have faced physical assault and threats of harm, with warnings that they must leave or face the risk of being killed, said the Times of Israel.
“The expulsion of the communities is carried out for the most part through a repeated pattern of operations, during which settlers and armed soldiers arrive almost daily at the residents’ houses, sow destruction and devastation, and in particular destroy essential infrastructure, block the access roads to and from the village, attack the residents, sometimes with gunfire, forbid them to take pictures and even take their phones and destroy them to prevent documentation [of the incidents], and finally give the residents an ultimatum according to which, if they do not vacate their homes within the allotted time period, the attackers will return and severely harm them,” Haqel points out in the petition.
Accounts from Palestinian residents of the six villages detailing repeated attacks have also been included in the document submitted to the court. These are supported by photographs depicting property damage and medical reports of petitioners treated after assaults by Israeli soldiers or settlers. Testimonies apparently reveal a systematic failure of both the police and the IDF to dispatch security services during attacks, even when notified in real time.
“Based on their conduct, the respondents are derelict in fulfilling their obligations under international law and [Israeli] administrative law and put the petitioners in immediate danger of being expelled and even [in a situation in which] their lives are endangered,” argues Haqel.
The petition says that, under Israeli law, court precedent and international humanitarian law, the IDF and police are obligated to protect Palestinian residents in Area C of the West Bank, under full Israeli control. Haqel contended that the respondents’ actions violate these obligations, placing Palestinians at immediate risk of expulsion and endangering their lives.
While the court initially set a response deadline for last Thursday, it has now been extended to this coming Thursday.