Israel Pledges Not to Raze Toilets in Disputed West Bank Villages

State says these Palestinian communities must be relocated to accommodate army firing zone.

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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Amira Hass
Amira Hass

The state has promised not to demolish 15 cisterns and 19 toilets in three Palestinian villages in the West Bank until the High Court of Justice decides the fate of the army firing zone in which the villages are located.

The promise was part of the state’s response, submitted in late August, to a High Court of Justice petition against the planned demolitions.

The cisterns and toilets are in Sfai, Majaz and Jinba, three villages in the South Hebron Hills with a combined population of around 300. The facilities were built in 2002 with British government funds. Israel has refused to allow them be connected to the water and electricity supplies, since they are among the eight villages the state is seeking to raze and relocate to make room for the army training area known as Firing Zone 918.

Though demolition orders have been issued against the cisterns and the toilets, the state in its response promised not to carry them out until at least 30 days after the court rules on the broader petition against Firing Zone 918.

Attorney Quamar Mishirqi-Asad of Rabbis for Human Rights, which has been aiding the villagers in their legal battle, said she hoped the decision represented a turning point in the state’s attitude and that it would now rethink its demolition orders against other structures.

In 2003-04, the villagers requested permits for the cisterns and toilets from the Civil Administration, but their application was turned down, as were their subsequent appeals.

The state claims that all eight villages in Firing Zone 918 were merely temporary seasonal residences when the area was declared a firing zone in 1980. The villagers say they have been living there permanently since before Israel’s establishment in 1948. Three weeks ago, the court deferred a decision on the petition against the firing zone and ordered the parties to first try mediation.

Palestinians sit in the courtroom during the hearing on Firing Zone 918.Credit: Emil Salman

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