9 May 2022
ICHR calls on international community to bear its responsibilities and suspend Israeli court decision against Massafer Yatta
The Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) condemns the refusal by the Israeli High Court of the petition filed by residents of the Massafer Yatta area in the southern Hebron governorate. The petition was instituted against the Israeli occupying authorities, who had declared Palestinian villages as firing zones for military training. Following almost 20 years of legal proceedings, the ICHR believes that the decision is an extension of the displacement and ethnic cleansing policies embraced by successive Israeli government.
On 4 May 2022, the Israeli High Court overruled the petition brought by the residents of 12 communities in the Massafer Yatta area, south of Hebron in the occupied West Bank, against a decision made by the Israeli occupying authorities in 1981. The decision provides for the full closure of the Massafer Yatta area and declares more than 30,000 dunums of the populated land a ‘firing zone’ for the purposes of military training. Affected communities include Janba, Al-Markaz, Al-Halawa, Al-Fakhit, At-Tabban, Al-Majaz, Maghayir al-‘Abeed; Safa al-Foqa, Safa at-Tahta, Tuba, Khallet ad-Dab’a; and Al-Mafqara.
The Israeli court decision means that the area will be officially evacuated by force and demolished. Some 4,000 Palestinians, including children and elderly people, will be forcibly displaced from their homes and left homeless. At the same time, the occupying Power intensifies the construction of settlements across the occupied West Bank.
Over the many years of occupation, Massafer Yatta has been subject to a series of home demolitions, forced displacement, assaults, and systematic harassment of Palestinian residents by the Israeli army and settlers. Designed to transfer the local population, these practices amount to the crime of forced displacement, which constitutes a grave violation of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Article 49 of the Convention provides that individual or mass forcible transfers are prohibited, regardless of their motive. Also, the occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies. According to the Fourth Geneva Convention, these acts are constitutive elements of the crimes of ethnic cleansing and genocide.
The ICHR is of the view that the Israeli High Court decision confirms that the Court is a tool of legitimising the occupation. Being in blatant defiance of the principles of International Law and resolutions of international legitimacy, the court decision compromises Palestinian fundamental rights, including the right to life and right to lead lives of dignity. Israeli measures, including home demolitions and settlement activity, fall within the remit of the apartheid policy, which the Israeli occupying authorities implement against Palestinians amid international silence.
Against this backdrop, the international community has the duty to take a clear and strong position and intervene to put an end to and prevent catastrophic outcomes of the forced transfer of the local population in Massafer Yatta. The international community must shoulder its legal and moral responsibilities towards arbitrary Israeli policies against Palestinians. The ICHR further calls on Third States that have entered into economic agreements with the occupying Power to impose economic sanctions, suspend economic cooperation, and place pressure on Israel to ensure compliance with International Law, principles of International Humanitarian Law and human rights.