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Israeli right-wing settler group builds on Palestinian land despite ongoing legal battle

May 12, 2016 10:58 P.M. (Updated: May 13, 2016 5:48 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- An Israeli right-wing pro-settlement group has continued construction on privately-held Palestinian land in the area of Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem, despite the family's ongoing appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court.

After years of legal battles, the Israeli Amana settlement group took over three dunums of land privately-held by the Abu Taah and Siam families.

Muhammad Issa Abu Taah, a member of one of the families, told Ma’an that the family was battling the extremist settler organization for 18 years.

“My mother filed several lawsuits to regain the land and I continued the battle in Israeli courts. The Israeli government claims that the land was acquired by the military, but about five years ago a defense lawyer proved that the land was never confiscated for military purposes,” Abu Taah said.

Abu Taah added that the family has documents that prove ownership of the confiscated land since 1942, but Israeli authorities prevented them from building on it for years.

Abu Taah described the ordeal as “illegal and purely political,” and told Ma’an that while the family submitted the case to the Israeli Supreme Court following a series of appeal rejections in the Israeli central court, Amana-employed workers entered the land during the night, fenced it off, and started construction two months ago.

The right-wing settler group claims that it bought the land from the Israel Land Authority (ILA).

Hagit Ofran, an official for Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now, told Ma’an that the settler group is planning to construct their new headquarters on the land, which consists of a four-story building with some 70 offices.

The ILA first decided to allocate three dunams in Sheikh Jarrah to Amana in 1992, which was part of some 4,000 dunams designated for confiscation by the Israeli government in 1968, though the three dunams in questions were never legally expropriated, according to Peace Now.

ILA approved plans for Amana House in 1998, and Israeli Ministry of Finance announced the land confiscation in 2009.

Peace Now pointed out in a report recently published on their investigations into the incident that two of Amana’s executives were questioned last month for alleged corruption, and that the organization also owns the company Al-Watan, which is under police investigation for fraudulent practices in land transactions across the Palestinian territory.

East Jerusalem was seized by Israel along with the West Bank in 1967 during the Six-Day War, and since then, the Israeli government has undertaken a policy of "Judaization" across the city, constructing Jewish settlements and demolishing Palestinian homes.

There are now more than 300,000 Jewish settlers illegally residing in East Jerusalem.

According to the Applied Research Institute - Jerusalem (ARIJ), Sheikh Jarrah is one of East Jerusalem’s neighborhoods most vulnerable to land confiscations due to its close proximity to the Old City, the illegal Israeli settlements of Ramat Eshkol and Givat Shappira, and the Hebrew University.
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