After Evicting Palestinians, Israel Seeks to Legalize Outpost in Firing Zone

State claimed in 2012 that zone is necessary for military purposes, but ignores seven buildings in West Bank outpost which trespass on same area.

Chaim Levinson
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Mitzpeh Avigail outpost.Credit: Oliver Fitoussi
Chaim Levinson

Israel is seeking to authorize a settlement outpost illegally erected in an army firing zone, while simultaneously waging a legal battle for the eviction of Palestinian villages in the very same area.

Avigayl, an illegal outpost in the southern Hebron Hills founded in 2001 on more than 1,000 dunams (250 acres) of land, is located between the Maon and Susya settlements.

In 2013, Palestinians who own part of the land on which the outpost was erected appealed to the Supreme Court, asking it to require the state to implement demolition orders standing against the outpost.

The state announced in February its intentions to legalize the outpost, and on Thursday it issued a statement revealing that seven of the outpost's buildings lie inside the Firing Zone 918, a 30,000-dunam IDF firing zone established in the 1980s which stretches from the southern Hebron Hills to Arad.

In 1999, the state evicted hundreds of Palestinian residents from the very same firing zone, demolished their homes and stoppered their wells. The residents filed an appeal with the Supreme Court to prevent further evictions, but the state notified the court in 2012 that the firing zone is necessary and that it will not allow permanent residence in the area.

In a discussion held last summer, the judges asked the state to engage in mediation process with the Palestinian plaintiffs in order to find a compromise.

It now appears that although the state is ordering the eviction of Palestinian villages in the firing zone, it turns a blind eye to settler trespassers in the same area.

The statement on Thursday also revealed that six of the buildings in Avigayl outpost were erected on private Palestinian property, as was the access road to the outpost, further complicating legalization plans.

The statement did indicate that a mobile home used as a barracks and set up on private property will be moved.

The IDF has so far given no response.