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Home > News & Analysis > From the Media
Barak stops demolition of homes built on Palestinian land
Ma'an News, Mar 23, 2009

This article was originally published by the Ma'an News Agency and is republished with permission.

Israeli houses overlook the terraced hillsides south of Bethlehem from the illegal West Bank settlement of Efrat. (IMEU)

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Sunday issued an order against demolishing homes built on privately owned Palestinian land in the West Bank settlement of Ofra.

He froze the order saying that "the matter must be investigated before such action is taken," the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.

The order came in response to a petition submitted last June by residents of the nearby Ein Yavruz village and the Israeli human rights group Yesh Din, insisting that Israel's High Court of Justice force the state to evacuate the settlement.

The complaint noted nine illegal settlement structures built on private Palestinian land.

However, Barak said on Sunday that he will not carry out the order, considering that the illegal homes have been populated for too long and are not illegal outposts (meaning they fall within a recognized Israeli settlement, despite the fact that all Israeli settlements are illegal under international law).

Barak said the issue "must be examined in its entirety without rash decisions being made," and only for the nine structures, according to an Israeli spokesperson.

Israeli Supreme Court Judge Edmund Levy last June rejected an order issued in response to the petition that forbade the Ofra from continuing to build the nine houses, noting that they were apparently being built on private Palestinian land.

Ten days later, Haaretz discovered that Israeli State Deputy Prosecutor Shai Nitzan had told the police not to implement the order. However, Nitzan apparently did not have the authority to reject such orders, instead having to turn to courts for clarification under Israeli law.

Meanwhile, Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem said that 58% of the entire settlement had been built on private land owned by Palestinians anyway. Later, Palestinians proved through the official land registry that they owned the land, making more than half of the settlement itself illegally built on private Palestinian land.

Ofra settlers say that they purchased the land from Palestinians owners, but that they could not provide proof, as naming the allegedly previous owners would expose them to "Palestinian retribution and attacks on the settlers," Haaretz said.

In response, B'Tselem provided 43 land registry records from the Israeli military's Civil Administration department, showing that Palestinians from nearby villages did in fact own the land in question.

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