EU officials visit Palestinian communities in the South Hebron Hills

PNN/ Hebron/

Heads of Mission and representatives from the EU, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and EUPOL COPPS today visited two Palestinian communities in the villages of Umm al-Heir and Khirbet Al-Majaz, in the South Hebron Hills. The diplomats met with residents, local and civil society representatives, and were briefed about the constant threat of demolition, eviction, and dispossession facing the local Palestinian communities.

In Umm al-Heir and Khirbet Al-Majaz, the Heads of Mission and representatives met residents, community representatives and civil society organisations active in the communities. Interlocutors presented the challenges facing the inhabitants of twelve traditional Palestinian villages in the area of Masafer-Yatta in the South Hebron Hills who, for the last two decades, have lived under the constant threat of demolition, eviction, and dispossession. In the 1980s, the IDF declared the area in which they live a “firing zone,” and, in 1999, evicted the residents of the area. In 2000, following a petition to the Israeli High Court of Justice by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and Attorney Shlomo Lecker, residents were allowed to return to the villages until the Court reached a final decision. Since then, residents have been in legal limbo and living under the constant threat of losing their homes. The EU and likeminded countries are providing assistance to both of the communities visited today.

“The European Union Member States and the likeminded partner countries represented here today are concerned about the continued threat of demolition of property and eviction faced by the local communities for more than two decades in the Masafer-Yatta area,” said the European Union Representative Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff. “We call upon Israel not to carry out demolitions in the said communities, which are highly vulnerable. Displacing the communities would be in contravention with Israel’s obligations as an occupying power under international humanitarian law,” he added.

The states involved in today’s visit continue to make clear their strong opposition to Israel’s settlement policy and actions taken in this context such as forced transfers, evictions, demolitions and confiscations of homes. The continuation of this policy violates international law and undermines the viability of the two-state solution and the prospect of a lasting peace in the region.