Middle East

Israel seeks court OK to raze West Bank villages

An Israeli soldier looks on as Palestinian Muslims arrive at the Israeli checkpoint of Qalandia near the West Bank city of Ramallah before crossing on July 20, 2012, into Jerusalem to attend the first Friday prayers of the holy month of Ramadan at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound. (AFP PHOTO/ABBAS MOMANI)

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israel is seeking a court's backing to raze eight Palestinian villages in the West Bank, according to legal documents, in what an Israeli rights group called a potential "humanitarian disaster."

In a written response to Israel's High Court which had requested an explanation, the state said the demolition orders pertained to permanent structures built by Palestinians on military firing ranges, contrary to orders barring civilians from the area while exercises are in progress.

"The respondent is prepared to allow the petitioners to enter the firing zone for the purposes of tending farmland and grazing livestock when there are no exercizes under way (on weekends and Israeli holidays)," the response said.

It said it would also offer farmers access to the land for another two months each year, to be agreed between the sides.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which together with residents of the villages of Majaz, Tabban, Sfai, Fakheit, Halaweh, Mirkez, Jinba, and Kharuba, is asking the court to block the demolitions and says the villagers have been in the area longer than the Israeli military.

"Most of them were born and raised in these villages to families that have been living in the area for several decades -- long before 1967," it said, referring to Israel's occupation of the West Bank during the Six-Day War of that year.

It says the move was likely to cause "an immediate humanitarian disaster for almost 2,000 souls, the destruction of villages, and the eradication of a remarkable way of life that has endured for centuries."





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