Palestinians fear that the IDF has a new legal tool that would make it easier for Israel to demolish illegal structures in Area C of the West Bank, attorney Tawfiq Jabareen told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.
Jabareen represents two illegally built Palestinian herding villages in the Jordan Valley, Ein Hilweh and Umm Jamal, which are under threat of IDF demolition.
Jabareen has sent a formal appeal to the Military Magistrate- General’s Office on behalf of the villages’ 300 residents.
At issue is not just the potential loss of their modular homes, but the use of what Jabareen has described as a new legal tool that could make it easier for the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria to demolish unauthorized Palestinian structures in the future.
The order, signed by OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Roni Numa and dated November 1, was not hand-delivered to the village, Jabareen said. It was posted on a road near the villages where it was discovered only on Thursday morning.
This specific type of order was created in 2003 to allow the Civil Administration to demolish settler outposts, Jabareen said. At the time it was not intended for use against Palestinians.
The use of this order was amended in 2015 and has now been used for the first time against Palestinians, he continued.
If its use is upheld, it would make it easier for the IDF to evict Palestinians in other cases in the West Bank.
These two villages cover an area of 55 hectares (136 acres).
Some of the families came 30 years ago from the South Hebron Hills and others were here before 1967, Jabareen said.
The office of the Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories said the warrants that had been issued were delimitation warrants and not enforcement ones.
“During the past years, a number of families have begun illegal building acts in the area repeatedly,” it said. “On November 9, 2017 a delimitation warrant was issued as part of the enforcement activities against the illegal construction in the area. The warrant was served in accordance to the protocols, among which require physical delivery to the area in which the warrant is valid.
“Any person who feels they are harmed by the delimitation warrant has the possibility to inquire about the matter within eight days to the authorities,” COGAT said. It added that was now examining some of the construction and that not enforcement would be carried out until such inquiry was completed.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which monitors IDF demolitions of illegal Palestinian structures in Area C, has explained that the Civil Administration rarely issues permits for such housing.
According to OCHA, from 2007 to 2016 only 4% of such requests were approved.
In its monthly report issued on Friday, it said that it was particularly concerned with IDF actions against Palestinians in the Jordan Valley.
In October, the High Court of Justice upheld demolitions orders for 200 structures in the small villages of Makhul, Humsa al-Baqai’a, al Farisiya- Ihmayyer and al Farisiya- Nabe al Ghazal. It’s a move that would affect 171 people, 50% of whom are children, OCHA said.