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Silwad residents awaiting legal decision over Amona relocation on village lands

Jan. 30, 2017 4:42 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 30, 2017 11:04 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- Residents of Silwad were expecting a hearing later this week objecting to plans by Israeli authorities to confiscate lands from the central occupied West Bank village to build housing for settlers evacuated from the illegal Amona outpost.

The Israeli Supreme Court has ruled that Amona be evacuated by Feb. 8 for being built on private Palestinian land. However, Israeli authorities plans for the relocation of Amona settlers have been contested, as the planned new settlement housing units would be located on the private property of several Palestinian landowners in nearby villages.

Gilad Grossman, a spokesman for Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din, which is representing Silwad in court, told Ma’an that the hearing would take place on Tuesday afternoon regarding the status of three plots of land belonging to Silwad residents.

The objection, presented by Yesh Din lawyer Shlomi Zakariya, claims that Israeli authorities deliberately did not give enough time to Silwad residents to go through the Israeli plan in order to escape legal accountability, adding that the settler relocation would harm Silwad landowners and be tantamount to Israeli political submission to Amona settlers.

“Our expectation is that the Supreme Court will rule that the (Israeli government’s relocation) plan is illegal -- but will that happen, we don't know,” Grossman said.

Yesh Din had previously stated that the Israeli government was "not concealing the fact that there is currently no plan for transferring the Amona settlers and therefore the only aim of a delay is to try to find how the law can be circumvented."

The legal objection comes as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been pushing for the speedy passage of the controversial “Legalization bill,” which would see 16 of illegal Israeli outposts in the occupied West Bank -- excluding Amona -- retroactively recognized by the Israeli government.

The bill states that any settlements built in the West Bank “in good faith” -- without knowledge that the land upon which it was built was privately owned by Palestinians -- could be officially recognized by Israel pending “minimal” proof of governmental support in its establishment.

However, Amona settlers threatened last week to renew their fight against imminent evacuation if the bill did not retroactively legalize all settlement outposts in the West Bank.

Rights groups have highlighted that, while settler outposts constructed in Palestinian territory are considered illegal by the Israeli government, all of the 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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