RAMALLAH: Residents of Masafer Yatta, south of Hebron in the West Bank, are living in constant fear they will be forced from their homes by Israeli troops.
The Israeli Supreme Court has approved the expulsion of Palestinians from Masafer Yatta, claiming the area is a “firing zone.”
Most roads leading to the collection of villages have been closed by the Israeli army, residents said, while Israel has also allowed the establishment of six settlement outposts in the area.
About 3,000 people live in Masafer Yatta, spread over 14 villages.
Residents, many living in tin-roofed dwellings and in caves, say they will not leave whatever the cost.
The Palestinians say they could be evicted at any time amid an escalation of the Israeli army’s campaign to demolish homes in Area C in the West Bank.
Palestinians’ fears are growing following a rise in the number of violent settler attacks against them and the establishment of settlement outposts on their land.
Settlers also burn residents’ crops, and prevent livestock from reaching pastures or water springs.
Grazing areas have been seized, and residential caves and Palestinian farms destroyed.
There are also concerns over what the Palestinians see as a decline in popular and international pressure on the Israeli government to back down from implementing the court’s decision to evict them.
Masafer Yatta residents on Friday called for urgent action to protect them from attacks and attempts to expel them.
Nidal Younis, head of the Masafer Yatta Village Council, told Arab News that settler attacks on residents have increased dramatically in recent weeks.
The Israeli army tolerates the violence, he said.
Residents have filed complaints with the Israeli police, but to no avail.
Shawan Jabarin, director general of the Palestinian Al-Haq Association for Human Rights, told Arab News that European and international diplomatic pressure on the Israeli government had eased, which may embolden the Israeli authorities to implement the court’s decision to evict the residents.
Palestinian sources believe Israel’s right-wing parties will push to have the West Bank annexed before the fall of the current regime, he said.
Jabarin said the International Criminal Court should pressure the Israeli government to back down on the eviction plan.
Settlers have become “tools used by the Israeli army to seize large areas of Palestinian land, from Masafer Yatta in the south to the northern West Bank,” he said.
Younis Arar, head of the International Relations Unit in the Settlement and Wall Resistance Commission, told Arab News that he feared Israeli military authorities could deport the residents of Masafer Yatta at any moment.
He described any deportation attempt as “a new catastrophe,” and said there was no European, international or even Arab pressure on the Israeli government to discourage it from taking such a step.
The Palestinian National Initiative movement described the Israeli court’s approval of the expulsion plan as ethnic cleansing committed by Israel against the Palestinian people.
“The successive Israeli occupation governments have been seeking for several years, through their arbitrary measures and continuous repression of our people in Masafer Yatta, to uproot and expel them to implement their settlement expansion plans,” it said.