Last updated: 17 September, 2013

Former settlement to return to Palestinian hands

Land confiscated by Israel 35 years ago to build a Jewish settlement in the West Bank will finally be returned to its Palestinians owners, the Israeli military said on Monday.

In 1978 Israel confiscated by military order land belonging to the Palestinian village of Burka in the northern West Bank.

It was used to erect an army encampment and later became a government-authorised civilian settlement.

It was shut down with three other small remote West Bank settlements alongside Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005.

The order requisitioning the land from the Palestinians remained in force however, prompting Burka residents to petition the Israeli Supreme Court in December 2011.

“The decree that established Homesh…was nullified several months ago as a result of an appeal brought to the Supreme Court,” an IDF spokesman wrote Monday in response to a query by AFP.

“In addition, the closure order that restricted the access of Palestinians to the land was lifted, and the representatives of the petitioners were notified,” he added.

He went on to say that by military order Israelis were now barred from the site, but Israeli NGO Yesh Din, a party to the Burka residents’ petition, said that settlers were still there.

Despite the military ban, Palestinians say that armed Jewish activists have been trickling back to try and reestablish a permanent settler presence there.

The far-right Jewish home party, which draws much of its support from the settlement movement, became a key player in the coalition government formed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after January elections.

“Thirty-five years have passed since the land was taken from its lawful owners and now we have been informed that they can lawfully return to their land,” Yesh Din said in a statement on Monday.

“To our regret, we are well aware of the permanent and illegal presence of Israelis at the site,” it went on. “We hope…that the law will be enforced and the Israelis staying there will be removed and the Palestinian owners can return safely to their lands.”