The Israeli Supreme Court ruled in favor of the military to evict some 1,200 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank to make way for a firing zone for the Israeli defense forces. 

The Palestinians live in the Masafer Yatta region, which consists of small, poor villages, according to the Financial Times

The legal battle over the land has spanned for two decades and the ruling impacts eight Palestinian villages, the report said. The expulsion would be the most expansive in decades and has been criticized by the UN and EU. 

Demolition has already started in the area, which has been called “Firing Zone 918.” Bulldozers guarded by IDF troops have destroyed nine homes in nearby Khirbet al Majaz and 11 in Khirbet al Fakheit. Video emerged on social media that showed some of the homes being destroyed. 

Hannah Weisfeld, the director of Yachad, the U.K.’s pro-Israel, pro-peace movement, said she visited Masafer Yatta, which is in Firing Zone 918, and the residents who live there “live under the daily threat of eviction.” 

“There is no pressure from the international community to stop the eviction & @IDF has already started demolishing,” she tweeted.

Palestinians and some Israelis have protested the court ruling, and tear gas and stun grenades were used, according to unconfirmed online reports.

The court ruling occurred in May and critics say it was done almost in secrecy. The ruling means IDF can forcibly remove these residents from what has been called Firing Zone 918, which is a swath of land in the South Hebron Hills designated by Israel in the 1980s. 

Israel said the area was designated at the time because the land was “uninhabited at the time,” the FT reported. Those who live there have contested those claims and said their families have lived there for generations. 

The court ruled in favor of the IDF because it said the Palestinians failed to provide proof that they own the land. 

The Trends Journal has reported extensively on Israel’s clashes with Palestinians over settlements. (See “ISRAEL’S NEW ‘SETTLEMENT’ PLAN CONDEMNED BY U.S., EUROPE,” (2 Nov 2021), “ISRAEL TO BUILD MORE ‘SETTLEMENTS” (26 Jan 2021), and “ISRAEL TO BUILD MORE REALESTATE DEVELOPMENTS ON PALESTINIAN LAND.” (11 Jan 2022.)

The Norwegian Refugee Council said Israeli authorities have increased both settlement expansion and demolitions since President Biden took office. The organization said in the first six months of this year, Israel approved plans for 4,427 housing units in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. 

“This is a huge increase from 3,645 units approved for all of last year,” the council said.

Biden visited Israel earlier in July to meet with Prime Minister Yair Lapid and said, “The connection between the Israeli people and the American people is bone deep. Generation after generation, that connection grows. We invest in each other. We dream together. We’re part of what has always been the objective we both had. I’ve been part of that as a senator, as a vice president, and quite frankly, before that, having been raised by a righteous Christian.”

TRENDPOST: While Israel calls them “settlements,” they are illegal land grabs under international law. They violate Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 that states, “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”

The UN Security Council, the UN General Assembly, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Court of Justice, and the High Contracting Parties to the Convention have all affirmed the Fourth Geneva Convention applies, that this is occupied territory, and Israeli settlements there are illegal. (See “ISRAEL’S NEW ‘SETTLEMENT’ PLAN CONDEMNED BY U.S., EUROPE,” “ISRAEL TO BUILD MORE ‘SETTLEMENTS,’” and “ISRAEL ACCUSED OF APARTHEID BY HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH.”)

The Israeli court ruled that international law was not relevant in this case. 

A lawyer for the Palestinians promised an appeal because “this is occupied territory, so the Israeli army cannot use the land for general purposes [such as training]. The villages of Masafer Yatta cannot serve as an IDF training field.”

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