Geneva, Switzerland – Israel’s decision to evict some 1,200 Palestinians from their homes in Masafer Yatta in the occupied West Bank may constitute a war crime, UN human rights experts said.
The decision to forcibly relocate Palestinian residents is a serious violation of international human rights and humanitarian law, and an independent and impartial investigation into the matter should be established, the experts said.
“By maintaining this policy to expel Palestinians from Masafer Yatta, the Israeli judicial system has given the Israeli government carte blanche to perpetuate the practice of systematic oppression against Palestinians,” three UN special rapporteurs said in a joint statement on Thursday. monday.
The court decision to allow the forced eviction was “all the more puzzling”, the UN expert said, as it is being made to allow Israeli military training in the area.
“How can this be prioritized over the rights of Palestinian residents? Israel has shown no ‘compelling military necessity’ to vacate the area. Therefore, the displacement of the Masafer Yatta communities may constitute a war crime,” the rapporteurs said.
Some 500 children are among an estimated 1,200 Palestinian residents who are now at imminent risk of being forcibly removed from their land following the ruling by Israel’s High Court of Justice earlier this month.
On May 4, the high court rejected the appeals of the residents of Masafer Yatta to prevent their eviction. The court’s ruling ended two decades of legal battles by residents who had fought to continue living on their land, which the Israeli army has designated as a closed military training site, codenamed “Firing Zone 918,” located south of Hebron.
Israeli forces have reportedly already demolished structures in the Masafer Yatta communities of Khribet al Fakhiet and al-Markez, according to the rapporteurs.
Francesca Albanese, a lawyer and UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, told Al Jazeera that Israel has not “respected the duties of an occupying power.”
Those duties, which Israel has breached, are outlined in the 1907 Hague Regulations and the Fourth Geneva Convention, said Albanese, who was one of three signatories to the UN declaration.
“Instead, it has chosen to prioritize the establishment of Jewish-only settlements and infrastructure in occupied Palestine, which in itself is a war crime, as it violates the absolute prohibition against forcible removal by an occupying power of parts of its civilian population to a territory. occupied territory,” Albanese said.
The occupation of Palestinian land has benefited Israeli settlers over the right to life, livelihood and housing of Palestinians, he said.
“The occupying power has no right to do so and instead must conduct military training in its own metropolitan territory,” he added.
According to data provided by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, between January 2009 and May 2022, Israel demolished some 8,413 Palestinian buildings, including residential, educational, commercial and medical infrastructure, of which 1,513 were funded by donors. .
Israel’s destruction of Palestinian buildings has displaced more than 12,000 residents from their homes and affected a total of 136,494 Palestinians.
Residents of Masafer Yatta have now exhausted all legal avenues to legally challenge the eviction order, Albanese said, noting that an International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation into the situation in Palestine is ongoing and that the court could investigate. these latest developments. .
“All attention is now on the office of the current ICC prosecutor,” he said.
Albanese also said that several EU member states, which are part of the West Bank Protection Consortium, which provides legal and material support to the Masafer Yatta communities, could use their voice to call on the Israeli government and demand that it respect and comply. with international law.
“More generally, it is necessary to put pressure on Israel to dismantle the regime of total control and subjugation of Palestinians that it has established through the vehicle of occupation,” he said.
Between January 2008 and April 2022, the Israeli occupation killed some 6,030 Palestinians and 268 Israelis, and injured 137,349 Palestinians and 5,912 Israelis.
In their joint statement, the three UN human rights experts also expressed particular concern that the Israeli court’s decision on Masafer Yatta has dismissed norms and principles that are the very foundation of international law, considering them irrelevant or non-binding.
“A Court that does not dispense justice based on international norms and that perpetuates the violations of the fundamental human rights of people who have been under military occupation for 55 years, becomes itself part of the structural system of oppression,” the judges said. experts in your statement. .