The Hebron Rehabilitation Committee warns that the Israeli government has begun to implement plans to establish a new settlement in the heart of Hebron’s Old City, on the site of the old bus station which was seized by the Israelis to use as a military base. Israeli reports indicate the former Defence Minister, Moshe Ya’alon has allotted a portion of land seized for military purposes to the Israeli Housing Ministry for settlement purposes. The Israeli Ministry of Housing has planned the construction of 28 new housing units on the site. These new constructions would raise the overall settlers’ population by 10%; as it would allow approximately 100 additional Israelis to settle in the area.
The subject site, which is being targeted for the new settlement, is directly between Beit Romano and Beit Hadessa settlements. This land is being strategically targeted by Israelis in order to establish connectivity and continuation of Israeli dominated land between their settlements. The establishment of this settlement would further the geographical divide of the Old City in half, a detrimental issue for Palestinians living in the Old City. According to the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee’s research, the planning process and the stockpiling of building materials has begun near to Beit Hadessa.
In a case decided in 2007, a legal opinion was issued by, Sharon Afek, the then Legal Advisor of the Civil Administration regarding the West Bank, forbidding the establishment of a settlement on the subject military base. According to this decision, revoking the right of Hebron Municipality as a protected tenant is illegal. The Brigadier General Sharon Afek (presently serving as the Military Advocate General) had previously come to this legal decision concerning the existence of six families of settlers in the military base.
If the military need for the land has ended, which it has evidenced by the transfer of the land to the Israeli Housing Ministry, the rights to the land by law must return to Hebron Municipality. Additionally, according to an Israeli High Court decision (Alon More, 1979) it is illegal for Israeli civilians to settle on land seized for military purposes. The Legal Advisor stated that the six families could stay due to the military seizure order but by no means should the land be allotted to them. Despite the previous legal decisions, the Netanyahu government allowed the six families to settle on site stating that they were working in a public capacity to aid the military. Currently, the new plans would go far beyond previous attempts from six families to 28 Israeli civilian families being settled on and around the base in the heart of Hebron’s Old City.
The Israeli Ministry of Justice has commented on the subject case stating that due to ”extenuating circumstances” they view the protected tenancy as terminated and have proceeded with the land expropriation, in violation of their own legal precedent. No further information regarding their claims to “extenuating circumstances” have been revealed. Hebron Rehabilitation Committee has remarked that since the legal decision of 2007, buried with procedural issues, the Israeli right wing government has now taken the initiative to manipulate their own legal system, as the government colludes with the extremist settler movement. This alarming situation is the result of years of the Israeli Occupation Forces’ and the Israeli government’s impunity in expropriating Palestinian land, occupying and settling areas illegally despite their obligations under international law and Israeli court decisions
The establishment of this settlement would be detrimental for Palestinian life and would cause an exacerbation of the ethnic cleansing already taking place. Settlements in the center of Hebron’s Old City result in deprivation of the various unalienable human rights, including the rights to self-determination, movement, religion, property and indigenous rights. The establishment of this settlement, as well as with others already established, constitutes a war crime under the Geneva Conventions and the Rome Statute.
Palestinian residents in the area are already suffering greatly economically, socially and physically as a result of the occupation and 6 settlements present in the Old City’s center. This additional settlement will only propel hardship, expel neighbouring Palestinians from the area and place those residing in the area under prison-like conditions. More than 130 movement restrictions are currently present in Hebron’s Old City. It is expected, if this additional settlement is installed, the number of movement restrictions will grow significantly, including the number of checkpoints and streets closed to Palestinian residents.
Urgent intervention is needed by human rights organizations, diplomats, foreign governments, UN agencies and other actors. Hebron Rehabilitation Committee calls on these organizations, individuals and groups to work quickly to prevent the establishment of this new settlement in Hebron’s Old City and to force the Israeli government to comply with international law. All forms of assistance are needed. Information about the Israeli plans and activities must be spread immediately.