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Jordan warns against eviction of Palestinians in South Hebron Hills area

Residents vow to stay despite court decision that they can be evicted after 20-year legal battle; ruling said they’re not permanent residents of land IDF wants for training ground

Palestinian Issa Abu Eram takes his flock of sheep out for the afternoon graze, in the West Bank Beduin community of Jinba, Masafer Yatta, on Friday, May 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)
Palestinian Issa Abu Eram takes his flock of sheep out for the afternoon graze, in the West Bank Beduin community of Jinba, Masafer Yatta, on Friday, May 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

Jordan on Friday issued a warning against a planned eviction of 1,300 Palestinians living in eight villages in the South Hebron Hills, as well as plans to approve the construction of nearly 4,000 settlement homes in other areas of the West Bank.

Jordanian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Haitham Abu Alfoul, said “the settlement expansion is a flagrant breach of international law and resolutions,” according to the official Petra news agency.

“Abu Alfoul stressed that the Israeli settlement policy whether in establishing or expanding settlements, seizing lands or forcibly displacing Palestinians, is an illegal policy which is rejected and condemned,” the statement reads.

The condemnation came as residents of the communities vowed to stay despite Israel’s High Court ruling late Wednesday night that the Israeli army could evict the residents of eight villages in the South Hebron Hills, after a legal battle lasting decades.

The lives of thousands of Palestinians in a cluster of Bedouin communities in the southern West Bank have been on hold for more than four decades, ever since the land they cultivated and lived on was declared a military firing and training zone by Israel.

Since that decision in early 1981, residents of the Masafer Yatta region have weathered demolitions, property seizures, restrictions, disruptions of food and water supplies, as well as the lingering threat of expulsion.

That threat grew significantly this week after Israel’s Supreme Court upheld a long-standing expulsion order against eight of the 12 Palestinian hamlets forming Masafer Yatta — potentially leaving at least 1,000 people homeless.

Palestinian laborers wave their hands to reporters as they ride at the back of a pickup truck and head to work, in the West Bank Beduin community of Jinba, Masafer Yatta, on Friday, May 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

On Friday, some residents said they are determined to stay on the land.

The verdict came after a more than two-decade-long legal struggle by Palestinians to remain in their homes. Israel has argued that the residents only use the area for seasonal agriculture and that they had already rejected offers of compromise that would have given them occasional access to the land.

The Palestinians say that if implemented, the ruling opens the way for the eviction of all the 12 communities that have a population of 4,000 people, mostly Bedouins who rely on animal herding and a traditional form of desert agriculture.

The residents of Jinba, one of the hamlets, said Friday that they have opposed any compromise because they have lived in the area long before Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East war.

Issa Abu Aram was born in a cave in the rugged mountainous terrain 48 years ago and has endured a tough life since building is banned here.

In the winter, he and his family members live in a cave. In the summer, they stay in caravans near the cave. His goats are a source of income, and on Friday, he had laid out dozens of balls of hardened goat milk yogurt on the ground to dry.

He said his 14 children grew up with the threat of expulsion hanging over them. His children are attending a makeshift school in Jinba, with the oldest son now in 12th grade.

“He did not live in any other place except Jinba, how are you going to convince him… to live somewhere else,” he said.

Palestinian Issa Abu Eram displays his local production of Jameed, a dried yogurt and a traditional Bedouin ingredient, at the roof of his house, in the West Bank Beduin community of Jinba, Masafer Yatta, on Friday, May 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

The Palestinian leadership on Friday condemned the Supreme Court ruling, which was handed down on Wednesday — when most of Israel was shut down for the country’s Independence Day.

Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a spokesman for PA President Mahmoud Abbas, said the removal order “amounts to forced displacement and ethnic cleansing, in violation of international law and relevant UN Security Council resolutions.”

The West Bank has been under Israeli military rule for nearly 55 years. Masafer Yatta is in the 60% of the territory where the Palestinian Authority is prohibited from operating. The Palestinians want the West Bank to form the main part of their future state.

Jewish settlers have established outposts in the area that are not officially authorized by Israel but are protected by the military. Last fall, dozens of settlers attacked a village in the area, and a 4-year-old boy was hospitalized after being struck in the head with a stone.

For now, the families say they have only one choice left: to stay and stick to their land.

“I don’t have an alternative and they cannot remove me,” said farmer Khalid al-Jabarin, standing outside a goat shed. “The entire government of Israel can’t remove me. We will not leave… we will not get out of here because we are the inhabitants of the land.”

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