Israel's High Court of Justice on Wednesday ordered the state to refrain from evicting Palestinians living in an area of the West Bank that the Israel Defense Forces has designated a firing zone, pending further decision on the matter.
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Justice Salim Joubran issued a temporary injunction forbidding the state from embarking on "the forced removal of the petitioners and their families", and gave it 60 days to respond to a petition against former Defense Minister Ehud Barak's July 2012 decision to expel the residents of the eight villages from their homes in the southern Hebron hills known to the IDF as Firing Zone 918.
Barak had decided to evict the residents on the grounds that the area is vital to army training. The IDF has said that there are no permanent residents in the area.
A petition against the decision was lodged by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, on behalf of 108 Palestinian residents.
Joubran said that after receiving the state's explanation, he will decide how to proceed with with petition, written by attorney Tamar Feldman. Attorney Shlomo Lecker is also expected to file another petition against the planned expulsion, in the names of other petitioners.
ACRI and Lecker originally filed petitions against the eviction of residents in the 12 south Hebron villages in 1999, and a High Court interim order at the time permitted their return.
It was only last year that court proceedings were renewed. After the state presented Barak's position that the area of active fire would be reduced and that eight out of the proposed 12 villages would indeed be evacuated, Justice Uzi Fogelman dismissed the old petitions and asked Lecker and the ACRI to file new ones.
The petition includes the legal opinion of three Israeli experts – Professors David Kretzmer, Eyal Benvenisti and Yuval Shany – who determined that the forcible transfer of a protected population contravenes the Geneva Convention, and could be grounds for an appeal to the International Criminal Court at The Hague.