Human rights group Yesh Din last week appealed a police decision to close the investigation into settlers who are living without a permit in prefabricated structures and trespassing a closed military zone.
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The area in question contains 12 mobile homes located on the outskirts of the settlement Kochav Ya'akov, on the land of the Palestinian village Kfar Akeb. In August 2009, before the settlers moved into the structures, Palestinians claiming ownership to the land petitioned the High Court of Justice on the matter, together with Yesh Din.
The petition, filed by attorneys Michael Sfard and Shlomi Zecharia, asked the court to issue an interim restraining order to prevent settlers from moving in. The settlers, as often happens, entered a race against the clock to move into the structures before the court made a decision, despite the buildings' unfinished state.
To prevent them from doing so, the defense minister at the time, Ehud Barak, issued an order declaring the area a closed military zone. The military’s Central Command then sent a letter to Judea and Samaria police informing them of Barak’s order.
Police forces must take “action to enforce the order,” the letter said. “[Police] must prevent the presence of Israelis in the closed area including the removal of those who have entered, and take criminal action against those who have entered the area."
The letter called on the police to implement the order immediately and to report on its implementation. Police detectives distributed the order a number of times at the site and hung it on the structures, but the settlers moved into the buildings anyway.
On September 3, 2009, the High Court issued an interim order freezing the status quo. A police investigation was then launched against the settlers, who had violated the no-trespass order and moved into the mobile homes. The settlers, immigrants from France, were summoned by the police for questioning. The translator during the interrogation was a Kokhav Ya'akov settler and not a police officer.
During the investigation, it emerged that the interim order had also been violated. On September 10, a week after it was issued, two residents signed rental agreements for NIS 2,500 a month. The two residents had clearly not lived on the site before the interim order was issued, because they had only arrived from France the day before the order was issued.
While police investigated the case - a three-and-a-half-year period - Israeli authorities conducted a survey and determined that the land in question, which was claimed by Palestinians, belonged to the state. But in the last hearing in September, it turned out that state authorities had not looked into the Palestinian claims before declaring the lands public.
The court then ordered a internal investigation into the failure to match state records with Palestinian claims.
The Palestinians claimed that their ownership of the land had been recognized by the Jordanian authorities since before 1967. Such ownership records have been recognized by military courts as proof of ownership as valid for registration in the land registry.
The Palestinian appeal against the declaration of the land as state land has not yet been heard by the military court of appeals.