Israeli Military Watches While Prefab Homes Erected Illegally in West Bank Outpost

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File photo: An Israeli youth builds wooden structures in the Jewish settler outpost of Amona, in the West Bank November 29, 2016.
File photo: An Israeli youth builds wooden structures in the Jewish settler outpost of Amona, in the West Bank November 29, 2016. Credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Though the army is aware that prefab homes were illegally erected in the evacuated the West Bank outpost of Amona last week, it has yet to issue demolition orders against them.

Amona was evacuated by court order in February 2017 because it was illegally built on privately owned Palestinian land.

The settlers now claim that they have purchased part of this land from its Palestinian owners, and recently submitted documents to Israel’s Civil Administration in the West Bank  to prove their claim. But they have already erected two prefab homes there, even though the administration has yet to even look at the documents.

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Defense sources confirmed that settlers had submitted the documents. But they said the administration hasn’t yet examined them, much less given the transaction even preliminary approval.

In fact, one source said, the administration hasn’t even confirmed that the lot on which the homes were erected is the same one that was ostensibly purchased.

Moreover, the lot in question is jointly owned by several different Palestinians, which means every single one of them would have to consent to the purchase for it to be legal. It’s not clear which, if any, of these Palestinians signed the sale document.

Finally, this isn’t the first time settlers have submitted documents ostensibly proving that land in Amona was legally purchased from its Palestinian owners – and the earlier documents proved to be fraudulent.

Nevertheless, the Binyamin Regional Council didn’t await the administration’s decision before moving two prefab homes into Amona and providing basic infrastructure such as water tankers.

Defense sources said the settlers didn’t coordinate with either the army or the Civil Administration. Thus by placing the homes there, they violated not only the planning laws, but also a military order declaring the area a closed military zone.

It’s not clear why the army didn’t prevent them from doing so, since it does prevent Palestinians from entering the area.

The left-wing organization Yesh Din responded to the move by asking Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit to open a criminal investigation for illegal squatting against Israel Gantz, the chairman of the Binyamin Regional Council. It also asked the head of the army’s Central Command and the army’s legal advisor in the West Bank to issue demolition orders against the homes.

Both the army and the Civil Administration have confirmed that the homes are breaking the law. Nevertheless, neither has yet issued the demolition orders.

The army’s coordinator of government activities in the territories said merely that “The Civil Administration is aware of the issue and it is being examined professionally.”

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