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Rights group calls Israel West Bank settlement illegal

[JURIST] One of the West Bank's largest Israeli settlements is an "unauthorized outpost," according to a report [text, PDF; summary] released Monday by Israeli human rights group B'Tselem [advocacy website]. The report examined Ofra [official website, in Hebrew], a settlement in eastern Jerusalem established in 1975, and drew from a 2005 Israeli government-commissioned study [JURIST report] of Jewish settlements on the West Bank. That so-called Sasson report, named for former state prosecutor Talia Sasson, established four criteria required for the settlements to be considered legal under local law: an Israeli government-issued decision to establish the settlement, a defined jurisdictional area, a detailed, approved outline plan, and presence on state land or on land that was purchased by Israelis and registered under their name in the Land Registry. The B'Tselem report showed that Ofra meets only the first condition, as it was declared an official community in 1979. According to B'Tselem, the other conditions were not met because at least 58 percent of Ofra's land had been registered to Palestinians in the Land Registry, in violation of Israeli government decisions and Israeli High Court rulings stating that Israeli settlements may not be built in the West Bank on such land. The report concludes:

The existence of the settlements leads to infringement of a long list of human rights of Palestinians, who live under military rule. Among the rights infringed are the right to equality, the right of property, the right to an adequate standard of living, the right to housing, the right to gain a livelihood, and the right to freedom of movement. Israel must dismantle all the settlements in the West Bank, including those recognized by the government as legal. This obligation derives from the severe and ongoing violation of Palestinians’ human rights and from the prohibition on the establishment of settlements elaborated in international humanitarian law.
B'Tselem called for Israel to return to the Palestinian landowners the land that was lawfully theirs and to remunerate them for the use of their land. An Ofra spokesperson defended the land as legally purchased [AP report] but said that such transactions are not made public to protect the identities of Palestinians who engage in the sales.

Israel has been strongly criticized by the international community over its settlement and land appropriation activities, particularly in the West Bank. Last month, Switzerland condemned Israeli destruction of Palestinian homes [JURIST report] in East Jerusalem as a violation of international humanitarian law. Since 2000, more than 1,600 homes have been demolished in the West Bank, including 600 in East Jerusalem. In September, B'Tselem reported that Israeli security policies have resulted in Palestinians being prevented from accessing land [JURIST report] adjacent to settlements in the West Bank. In July, Israeli human rights group Yesh Din [advocacy website] highlighted the lack of investigations and prosecutions [JURIST report] of Israeli settlers in the Occupied Territories who commit crimes against Palestinians. In June, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] said that Israeli plans to expand settlements [Ha'aretz report] in the West Bank violate international law [JURIST report].

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