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Israeli rights group submits complaint claiming land allocated to Amona is Palestinian-owned

Jan. 17, 2017 9:09 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 18, 2017 4:50 P.M.)
A Palestinian rides on a donkey with a settlement in the background. (Photo: Christian Peacemaker Team, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli rights group Yesh Din submitted a complaint to Israeli civil authorities on behalf of Palestinian landowners who claim that they own four plots of land allocated for the building of alternative housing for residents of the soon-to-be demolished Israeli settler outpost of Amona, Israeli media reported on Tuesday.

According to Israeli media outlet Ynet, the complaint states that the land belongs to Palestinian residents of Silwad, who are protected in accordance with the Supreme Court ruling on Amona, which states that the settler outpost would be demolished due to its location on privately held Palestinian land.

The Israeli government began building new homes for Amona residents last week, Ynet reported, as part of an agreement with the residents and the Israeli government to provide alternative housing to the settlers.

“Once the plots were announced, landowners had 96 hours to petition the location of the designated land in the case that they were, in fact,on private Palestinian land,” Ynet added in their report.

Last month, the Israeli Supreme Court accepted the Israeli government’s request to postpone the evacuation of Amona until Feb. 8 in order to to give additional time for the Israeli government to provide alternative housing for its residents.

Haaretz reported at the time that the government plan would see the majority of them relocated to a nearby hilltop to lease, claiming that the property had been abandoned by its Palestinian owners.

"After 20 years of pioneering settlement, and against all odds, and after two years of struggle, we have decided to suspend our struggle, and take the government's offer to build 52 houses and public buildings in new Amona," Ynet quoted the Amona settlers as saying at the time.

Following the settlers’ acceptance of the government plan, reports quickly emerged that the land slated for the relocation of Amona residents was also privately owned by Palestinians, with Israeli human rights watchdog Peace Now pointing out that “the Israeli government is replacing one land theft by another.”

Israeli rights group Yesh Din announced last month that it had filed an appeal on behalf of a Palestinian who claimed to own the land the settlers had been allocated, emphasizing the land in fact has not been abandoned, while there was evidence supporting a number of other claims to land earmarked for the Amona settlers in the Palestinian villages of Silwad, Ein Yabrud, and other neighboring towns.

Referring to all four plots, Peace Now asserted that “These lands are private lands and their use for the purpose of settlement is contrary to previous legal opinions of the (Israeli) State.”

Mayor of Silwad Abd al-Rahman Salih told Ma’an last month that the municipal council had already been notified by Israeli authorities of plans to confiscate the privately owned land in the town's outskirts.

"Israel claims the new land slated for confiscation has been deserted by its owners who live abroad," the mayor said. “We have all the documents to prove that the land is a private property of the town, known locally as Hawd Shbeikat. But this (Israeli) government brushes aside even the decisions of the Israeli Supreme Court."

Rights groups have highlighted that, while the settler outposts constructed in Palestinian territory are considered illegal by the Israeli government, each of the some 196 government-approved Israeli settlements scattered across the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are also built in direct violation of international law.
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