Despite Court Order, Israeli Army Denies Palestinian Landowners Access to Evacuated Settlement Site

The settlement of Homesh in the West Bank was evacuated as part of Israel’s disengagement plan in 2005, but Israelis have continued to visit the area and Palestinians are still barred

Citizens of the Palestinian village of Burka and Israeli soldiers in the area, December 13, 2019.
RANEEN SAWAFTA/Reuters

The Israeli army prevented dozens of Palestinians from the village of Burka from reaching the site of the abandoned settlement of Homesh in the northern West Bank, a week after the state said it had revoked a ban on Palestinians accessing the land.

Some of the Palestinians who tried to reach the area own land there.

Homesh was evacuated as part of Israel’s disengagement from Gaza in 2005, which also involved withdrawing from several northern West Bank settlements. In 2013 the state canceled the order that had allowed the land to be seized, but Israelis have continued to visit the area for years, which the state acknowledged in response to a court petition.

In October 2017 the army issued a blanket ban for Israelis and Palestinians alike on entering the site. Last week the ban on Palestinian visitors to the site was lifted in response to a petition to the High Court of Justice by the landowners and the nongovernmental organization Yesh Din. According to the state response to the petition, Israelis are still denied entry to the area as part of the implementation of the 2005 disengagement plan.

Citizens of the Palestinian village of Burka and Israeli soldiers in the area, December 13, 2019.
RANEEN SAWAFTA/Reuters

A group of Palestinians from Burka, including those who own land in the area, arrived to the site on Friday with copies of the state’s decision. They said soldiers did not let them enter the area, and that they saw five settlers there.

“Exactly the opposite of what was decided in court is what happened,” said Mushir Sleiman Seif, a landowner from Burka. “We were barred from entering our land while the settlers were permitted to be there.”

Seif said this was the first time he had tried to get to the site since the decision was issued. “We showed them [the soldiers] the court ruling but they said that this isn’t a court here,” said Saddam Sallah, a photographer from Burka. Seif said village residents intend to continue marching to the site every Friday until they are allowed to enter.