- Published on Tuesday, 21 August 2012 14:04
Israel is to pursue the evacuation of settlers from the illegal West Bank outpost of Migron, the Israeli Attorney General's Office said in a statement to the Israeli High Court on Monday.
However, the settlers will be not be removed from the West Bank, but will be moved to a new settlement just 2km from Migron. The new outpost is due to be built on the land of the Palestinian village of Mukhmas in the Israeli-controlled Area C of the West Bank, which is classified by Israel as state-owned land, Israeli NGO Peace Now told PNN.
The evacuation of Migron, which has most recently been set for August 28th, has been delayed several times since the Israeli High Court ruled last summer that the outpost must be evacuated due to it being built on what Israel recognises to be private Palestinian land.
"We recall that all of the buildings in Migron are illegal and that demolition orders were issued many years ago," the Attorney General's Office stated.
The statement comes in response to a petition to the High Court last month by 17 of the 50 settler families living in Migron to let them stay in the illegal outpost. The petition claimed that the families had bought three plots of land in the settlement and so should be allowed to remain on those.
However, Peace Now's Settlement Watch Director Hagit Ofran told PNN that they were certain that the purchases were based on forged documents.
The Israeli statement acknowledged that Peace Now's attorney Michael Sfard, who initially petitioned the High Court on behalf of the Palestinian landowners, had already claimed that the purchases of Lots 2, 10 and 23 were founded on fraudulent documents, and said that police were investigating the claims.
The state noted that access to Lot 2 would involve trespassing on adjacent Palestinian property. The statement also pointed out that the settlers had only claimed to have purchased 25% of Lot 23, and that its usage would infringe the rights of the Palestinians who own the rest.
However, the Attorney General's Office asked the High Court to allow vacant buildings on Lot 10 to be left standing for a further 90 days after the planned August 28th eviction, while the settlers' purchase claims are being investigated.
Commenting on the state's request, Ofran said, "The government is doing everything in favour of the settlers, including attempts to leave houses on Palestinian land, which means the Palestinians won't be able to return."
"They [the Israeli government] will use security excuses and guards [to ensure this]," she added.
The government's statement did not mention the date of the evacuation. Any further action on Migron is being postponed until a High Court hearing on August 28th, the same date as the planned evacuation.
A spokesperson for the Israeli Justice Ministry refused to comment further on the statement, neither confirming nor denying whether Palestinians would be able to return to their land, and refusing to specify the date of the evacuation and where the settlers would be evacuated to.
The Attorney General's Office's statement was accompanied by an affadavit signed by Likud Minister Benny Begin. The document, seen by PNN, says that the statement represents that views of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
All settlements in the occupied West Bank are considered illegal by the international community under international law.