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Residents petition high court to access olive groves

Oct. 12, 2010 2:44 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 13, 2010 2:12 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Residents of the Wadi Ar-Rasha village filed a petition Tuesday with the Israeli High Court of Justice to secure access to their land during the olive harvest, an Israeli rights group said.

Residents of the village, in the northern Qalqiliya district, had applied for 98 requests to access their olive groves which fall behind Israel's separation wall, but all requests were denied by Israel's Civil Administration, Yesh Din wrote.

With the rights group's assistance, residents hope to secure an injunction that will allow them to reach their groves "in order to protect the yearly livelihood of the villagers," the statement read.

The village is one of five Palestinian villages near the illegal settlement of Alfe Menashe. After the separation wall was erected around the settlement, the village became an enclave. The HCJ ruled that the village should no longer be an enclave surrounded by barriers the statement said but noted that the village's agricultural fields and groves, measuring up to 500 dunams, remained inside the closed-off area.

The petition, filed by attorneys Michael Sfard and Avisar Lev of the Yesh Din legal team, said that Israeli authorities' refusal to grant access to the villagers is "pointless and unjustified", and undermines their right to property and livelihood. The petitioners note that by refusing to the villagers' requests, the authorities have violated their legal commitments, the statement read.

"This case shows that the authorities not only fail to protect the Palestinians from right-wing Jewish extremists, but also prevent them from exercising their legal right to harvest their olives", said Sfard.

"The olive harvest season is underway. The court must intervene urgently, so as to protect the livelihood of the residents of Wadi A-Rasha", added Lev.

On Monday, Yesh Din called on Israeli authorities to protect Palestinians during the olive harvest season, sending a letter to high-ranking officials to remind them of Israel's obligation under international law to protect residents of territories which it occupies.

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