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Accountability

Palestinians vow to stay on West Bank land despite defeat in decades-old legal battle

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The leader of a Palestinian village council in the West Bank vowed on Friday to continue fighting eviction from land the Israeli military is claiming as a firing range, despite an Israeli Supreme Court decision against the Palestinians in a case that has been in court for more than two decades.

“We will all resist and stay in our lands; we have no other place to go to,” Masafer Yatta council leader Nidal Abu Younis told CNN on Friday. “Israel is seeking, through these attempts, to separate the villages in the Hebron Mountains from the northern Negev in the occupied lands, and break families’ ties.”

“We, the families of Masafer, have papers that prove our ownership of our land,” Younis went onto say.

Israel’s High Court of Justice Wednesday ruled against the Palestinian villagers, accepting the Israeli state’s claim that residents began squatting in the area after it was declared a firing zone by the military in 1981. The judge also ordered each resident to pay 20,000 shekels ($5,900) in expenses.

The court move legally clears the way for the eviction of some 1,000 Palestinians from eight villages on the outskirts of the city of Hebron.

Lynn Hastings, who is the United Nations resident and humanitarian coordinator in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, said the Palestinian petitioners, having exhausted domestic legal remedies, are now “unprotected and at risk of imminent displacement.”

She called on Israel “to cease demolitions and evictions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, in line with its obligations under international law.”

The European Union said evicting the Palestinians would amount to “forcible transfer from their homes and destruction of their communities,” which it said was prohibited under international law. “As the occupying power, Israel has the obligation to protect the Palestinian population and not displace it.”

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which represented the Palestinian villagers in court, accused the court of approving a move that would “leave families, children and elderly without a roof over their heads.” It said the ruling was “unusual and would carry severe consequences.”

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