Israeli daily, Haaretz, reported Tuesday that the Civil Israeli Administration, operated by the Israeli Army in the occupied West Bank, said some 166 homes in the Eli settlement in the occupied West bank, were built on private Palestinian land.Haaretz said that the settlement, that was even expanded, was never granted an approved Israeli urban plan due to the fact that it’s built on private Palestinian property.
The fact that the settlement was never approved means that no legal housing permits have been issued, an issue that led to several petitions filed at the Israeli High Court of Justice.
Haaretz said that the settlers started pressuring the government to legalize their constructions, and the government started preparing a “zoning map” in order to clarify the lands that will be part of the illegal settlement.
The Israeli paper also obtained a map signed in November of last year by the Central Command of the Israeli army, showing that 166 houses in the settlement are built on Palestinian lands. The map also has aerial photos of the area taken in 1970. The Eli settlement was built in 1984.
Two nearby illegal settlements (Palgei Mayim and Givat Haroeh) of 80 houses were not included in the map.
According to Haaretz, the land in question was never officially registered, and that its ownership dates back to the Ottoman law in the country; a law that grants ownership to the cultivator of the land after farming it for ten years.
But even if the lands are not private, International Law and the Fourth Geneva Convention regard settlements built on occupied territory to be illegal.
Haaretz said that even in cases of undetermined property ownership and the legal status of the outposts, Israel is working on trying to “legalize” the status of the outposts by declaring the lands as state-owned, thus retroactively legalizing them.
An example of that it’s the illegal outpost of Hayovel; it was retroactively legalized despite an active appeal against it at the Israeli High Court.
Furthermore, Haaretz reported that the Israeli Civil Administration office in the occupied West Bank is currently not interested in taking action against the Eli settlement, but should the High Court demand it to take action, it might be obliged to do so. There are also several petitions against different buildings in the settlement.
Peace Now Activist, Dror Atkas, said that “Israel is actively involved in land theft in the West Bank, especially since Tel Aviv repeatedly legalizes illegal outposts in a retroactive manner, and turns a blind eye on the construction of settlement units and outposts on private Palestinian property.”
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Eli Local committee, Kobi Eliraz, claimed that the houses in the settlement “were not built on private Palestinian lands”, and also claimed that some of the houses might have been built on state cultivated land.
The Eli settlement is located between the central West Bank city of Ramallah, and the northern city of Nablus. It is built on nine hilltops, imposing control over thousands of Dunams of Palestinian lands in the occupied West Bank.