Legal Work, Press Releases

New petition claims blocked road access may result in forcible transfer of Palestinians

0 Comments 30 January 2018

PRESS RELEASE | JANUARY 30 2018

New High Court petition filed by Rabbis for Human Rights in the name of Palestinians in the South Hebron Hills claims that blocking access to a main road endangers residents’ medical needs, hurting their basic right to livelihood, and that such grievances amount to an attempt at forcible transfer.

Palestinian village of Tuwani in the South Hebron Hills

The road at the heart of the petition served the Palestinian residents for years until it was blocked. Although there is an alternative road, it is effectively blocked to Palestinians due to violence. As a result, residents are de facto in a state of siege, with only one route available to them. This route, however, is problematic- it requires more time and it is not accessible for some children, older people and certain vehicles. This new petition demands the roads be made available.

On Monday, January 29 2018, Rabbis for Human Rights petitioned the Israeli High Court of Justice on behalf of residents of Palestinian villages in the southern Hebron hills. The petition demands they be allowed to utilize a road accessing their communities — a dirt road connecting them to Route 317, which is the main road in the area. Al Tuwani, Maghayir al-Abeed, Tuba, Upper Safai, and the Lower Safai relied on this road from when it was built at the beginning of the 20th century until 2003.  After 2003, a temporary military order was issued which was followed by extremist settler violence, further preventing Palestinians from using the road.

In correspondence prior to the submission of the petition, the army claimed the road was an internal road of the illegal Havat Maon outpost, despite its location outside the outpost. Aerial photographs from 1972 submitted by RHR show the road existed at that time — i.e. much earlier than the establishment of the illegal outpost. At the end of December 2017, the army wrote to RHR that ​the road is a Closed Military Zone, for the security of the outpost.

In the petition, Rabbis for Human Rights  — representing the residents — argues that the blocking of access contradicts Jewish spirit (Jewish law) and the fundamental values ​​of Israeli law as well as International Humanitarian Law. In particular, International Law obligates the military regime controlling an area under belligerent occupation to protect the rights of the local residents and enforce the rule of law.

Chronology:

Around 1,000 Palestinians inhabit the area. They subsist mainly on sheep and agriculture. In 1997, the illegal outpost of Havat Maon was established near the road, and violent attacks by Israeli extremists from the settlement began against Palestinians using the road. In 2003, following severe violence, the army closed the dirt road for two days with a Closed Military Zone order. Ever since, the violence has intensified and the Palestinians have found themselves in a new reality where they fear using the road and are actually prevented from accessing it. Palestinian children who continued to use the road briefly were also attacked, as were international activists who volunteered to accompany the children in 2004.

 

Following that attack, it was decided that the children would receive a military escort to protect them from violence. However, the escort does not come consistently, resulting in damage to the children’s schooling. As far as we are aware, no suspects have been arrested in relation to the attack on the children, and certainly no legal proceedings have been initiated in this regard. At that point, the residents were more or less prevented from accessing the road, fearing for their safety.

Because the road is dangerous, the residents of the area use two alternative routes: the first one is about a half hour longer than the blocked road.  The second is at least an hour walk, and is not accessible to children and many adults due to its rugged terrain. In recent times, however, the first alternative route has become plagued with the violence and intimidation by extremist settlers. Therefore, local residents are essentially living under ongoing fear in a siege situation. Moreover, the conduct of the authorities is resulting in pressure on the residents to abandon their besieged homes. Such actions severely harm the local residents’ right to earn a livelihood, their basic right to freedom of movement, and puts their lives in danger in medical emergencies.

 

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