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Israeli court rejects appeal against demolition of Bedouin village

March 20, 2014 10:53 P.M. (Updated: March 22, 2014 9:25 P.M.)
BEERSHEBA (Ma'an) -- An Israeli central court in Beersheba on Wednesday rejected an appeal against a decision to demolish a Palestinian Bedouin village in the Negev, even though the structures were built after residents were forcibly moved there by Israel decades ago.

The Israeli court's decision paves the way for the planned displacement of Umm al-Heiran's 1,000 inhabitants to make way for a planned Jewish town, 50 years after the state gave the village inhabitants' the land after their original lands were confiscated.

The judge rejected an appeal filed by Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights, on behalf of residents against a court decision to demolish 33 buildings in the village.

The judge reportedly accepted the defense's argument that despite the land ownership, and the fact that Israel moved residents there but refused to ever recognize the village, the buildings themselves were still considered unlicensed and thus should be demolished.

The judge did however decide to delay the demolitions for nine months in order to give residents enough time to find new homes.

Since the original demolition order for the village was issued in 2003, villagers have been fighting a legal battle with Adalah's help to prevent the order's enforcement.

Israeli authorities originally announced plans to demolish the Arab village of Umm al-Heiran in order to create a Jewish town atop it, to be named Hiran, Adalah lawyer Suhad Bishara told AFP in December.

The Palestinian Bedouin residents of Umm al-Heiran moved to live in the village in 1956 after the state of Israel confiscated their lands in Khirbet Zabbala. However, the state never recognized the village's existence, neither providing services nor granting licenses for the buildings they constructed.

In 2002, the Israeli government prepared blueprints for a new Jewish city named Hiran to be built on the lands. The government also planned to establish a forest named Yatir on the adjacent Bedouin village of Atteir, which is also subject to demolition proceedings.

Israel refuses to recognize 35 Bedouin villages in the Negev, which collectively house nearly 90,000 people.

The Israeli state denies them access to basic services and infrastructure, such as electricity and running water, and refuses to place them under municipal jurisdiction.

Although the majority of Palestinians were expelled from their homes inside Israel during the 1948 conflict that led to the creation of the State of Israel, some Palestinians managed to remain in their villages and their descendants today make up around 20 percent of Israel's population.
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