Following a petition we filed to the High Court of Justice against the Civil Administration, an illegal structure at an archaeological site in Samaria was removed. The CA was also charged with the expenses of the legal process.
A few months ago, we noticed an Arab invasion of Israeli state land at Khirbet Khurkosh, an archaeological site near the city of Ariel in Samaria.
Regavim alerted the authorities six (!) times to enforce the law, but work continued at the site – as part of the #BattleforAreaC. We petitioned the High Court to instruct the authorities to implement legislation from 2018 regarding the demolition of new structures.
During the court hearing, the Civil Administration told the judges that the structure’s owner, Falastin Musa Ahmad Abu Eid, received an interim order from the High Court that froze the enforcement process. However, the CA officials promised that once the interim order would expire, the new legislation would be applied in this case.
Despite this, and despite the Court fining the CA (essentially blaming them for the situation), the construction criminals continued to build at the site.
So we pressured the CA (again) to enforce the law, and finally, yesterday morning, forces came to tear down the structure.
We congratulate the CA for doing its job properly, but we are troubled by the fact that the authorities woke up only after Regavim’s petition and after the Court fined the CA. The whole point of the 2018 legislation is to facilitate and shorten the enforcement process, allowing for the demolition of new structures within days rather than months!
The Civil Administration doesn’t like public criticism and scrutiny, but in this case, their failure to act swiftly must be noted. It’s no wonder that the CA has proven incapable in the face of the strategic, systematic takeover of Area C and the open spaces in Judea & Samaria. ** On our part, we’ll continue to monitor matters on the ground, throughout the Land of Israel, and to protect Israel’s resources and preserve its sovereignty. If you would like to support our activities, make an online, tax-deductible donation here.
We’ve been in the business of protecting Israel’s land resources for many years, but this episode is something we’ve never encountered before. In one of our recent legal cases, the Jerusalem District Court accepted the Civil Administration’s narrative, despite its neglectful conduct, and decided to hit Regavim with a 10,000 shekels fine!
Let’s start from the beginning.
A year ago, we told you about the illegal expansion of the Nahalin village in Gush Etzion. The moment the new plots began to be developed (illegally!), we recognized the threat posed to the nearby community of Rosh Tzurim, which is being choked.
We approached the Civil Administration, an official enforcement body of the State of Israel that must act in accordance with the law, to demand law enforcement at the site. However, the CA didn’t do much. Inspectors came to the site and hung up stop work orders, but construction continued relentlessly. The orders were completely ignored, and the area is now an illegal, Arab neighborhood.
After we sent more alerts to the authorities and didn’t receive any proper responses, we filed a petition with the Jerusalem District Court against the Civil Administration. As usual, the CA told the judges that enforcement at the site would happen “in accordance with established enforcement priorities”. This was not surprising.
However, this time, instead of criticizing the CA for not doing its job, the Court bought the excuse of “enforcement priorities”! Our petition was rejected, and we were charged with the expenses, a hefty fine totaling ₪10,000.
**** The Civil Administration’s goal is to exhaust Regavim, and to make us relinquish our efforts. You see, CA officials don’t really like it when we submit petitions and alerts, and when we present their deficiencies in the media and elsewhere. The CA prefers to deflect public criticism, attempting to hide their failures.
With each petition we file, we know that there is a chance that it will be rejected. But we are always guided by the importance of our mission, first and foremost: the protection of Israel’s resources and preservation of sovereignty. If Regavim didn’t exist, the situation on the ground would be much worse.
We call on you, our friends and supporters in Israel and abroad, to help us cover the costs. In order to continue our Zionist activities, and to point out the shortcomings of Israel’s enforcement bodies, we need your help. Make an online, tax-deductible donation here.
We often discuss the issue of the illegal takeover of Area C, the area of Judea and Samaria under Israeli jurisdiction. Let’s break it down into numbers.
Illegal Palestinian structures, built in Area C without permits: 2009: 29,784 2018: 58,435 2020: 65,572
According to official data, every year the Civil Administration tears down between 200-250 structures. So even if you hear of the odd demolition, it’s like a drop in the sea. The Palestinian Authority is carrying out mass, rapid, illegal construction, changing the map by creating facts on the ground.
Looking at the number of illegal structures doesn’t tell the full story, however. While Israeli-Jewish construction is often ‘upwards’, the Palestinian-Arab construction tends to be ‘sideways’ – in other words, spreading over huge swathes of land.
In 2009, Israeli construction covered 47,327 dunams in Area C, while Palestinian construction sprawled over 44,495 dunams.
By 2019, the number of dunams covered by Israeli construction increased slightly to 56,700 while Palestinian construction was over 78,500 (!) dunams.
The alarm bells must ring. We are up against huge, EU-funded, PA-orchestrated efforts to steal more and more land in Area C, the section of Judea and Samaria under full Israeli jurisdiction. In line with the Fayyad plan that was devised in 2009, the takeover is methodical, strategic, and effective.
Israel can win this battle; but it must change its mindset and understand that this is about the future of our ancestral homeland. We call on the Israeli government to prevent the establishment of a de-facto Palestinian terror state in Israel’s heartland.
Regavim petitions High Court of Justice: Apply the enforcement tools legislated in 2018 against new Palestinian Authority de facto annexation in Gush Etzion region of Area C.
Following the Regavim Movement’s urgent requests to the Ministry of Defense to halt further progress on an illegal road being paved by the Palestinian Authority in a strategic area of Gush Etzion, Regavim filed a petition in the High Court of Justice this morning (Wednesday). The road, which connects the Area B villages of Battir and Husan, will effectively strangle the Jewish community of Har Gilo.
Last week, the Regavim Movement submitted a second urgent alert to Minister of Defense Benny Gantz and to the Civil Administration, demanding immediate enforcement action against a strategic Palestinian Authority project in Gush Etzion – a road connecting the Palestinian villages Battir and Husan.
The road skirts the Jewish community of Har Gilo, spanning the Heletz Valley, and connects the illegal “northern extension” of Battir to the village of Husan, both of which are designated as Area B (under Palestinian Authority jurisdiction).
Eitan Melet, Regavim’s Field Coordinator for Judea and Samaria, who documented the ongoing roadwork, explains that the land on which the Palestinian Authority is laying the road is of particular strategic importance: “This,” he says, “constitutes the corridor connecting Gush Etzion to Jerusalem, and is a vital strategic asset for Israeli control of the area. The illegal road, and the further expansion of the Palestinian villages that it will eventually facilitate, will turn territory under full Israeli jurisdiction into an isolated enclave surrounded by territory under de facto Palestinian Authority control.”
Gush Etzion Regional Council head Shlomo Neeman stressed that this incident illustrates the Palestinian Authority’s systematic method of achieving territorial contiguity: “The Batir road is one more attempt to dismantle Israeli sovereignty. The road work must be stopped – yesterday! – and we must prevent the creation of a Palestinian state right under our noses. Protection of Israeli state land and law enforcement against illegal construction, land-grabs and encroachment on our national resources must be at the very top of the list of priorities of every Israeli official.”
Regavim issued two separate alerts in recent days calling for a criminal investigation against the perpetrators who are carrying out the work, and full disclosure of any and all enforcement activity that has been carried out. In light of the urgency of the matter and the pace at which the work on the road is progressing, and after no response was received and no enforcement activity was carried out, Regavim petitioned the High Court of Justice to instruct the Ministry of Defense to apply the relatively new legislation, passed in 2018 and approved by the High Court in recent rulings, that empowers the demolition of new structures.
Recently, we exposed, along with journalist Lia Spilkin that a huge number of old Egged buses were sold to an illegal junkyard. Since the operation of the junkyard was carried out without supervision, ignoring all regulations and requirements, the environmental damage was huge, and old vehicle parts found their way onto the black market.
Egged claimed that it’s not responsible for what happens in junkyards that it doesn’t own. Even if the purchase of old buses is made by a criminal, and despite the environmental damage, Egged isn’t interested. When we asked for information about the buyer, the bus company refused to comment.
Regavim approached the Civil Administration to demand enforcement action against the junkyard, located on IDF Training Ground 203 in the western Binyamin region. Civil Administration officials responded, as expected, that enforcement will take place “in accordance with established priorities”.
On this occasion, the public and media attention clearly had an effect: the Civil Administration evacuated the junkyard and confiscated the criminals’ work vehicles.
We plan to monitor the situation on the ground to make sure that the criminals don’t return to their damaging ways. All over the country, we shall continue our Zionist activities, fighting for the protection of Israel’s environment and land resources. If you want to be part of our important efforts, you’re invited to donate to Regavim.
The State of Israel enacted an effective enforcement order to fight the Palestinian takeover of Judea and Samaria, but the Civil Administration has refrained from using it – despite the approval of the High Court of Justice. Now, the Regavim Movement and the Samaria Regional Council have submitted a High Court petition demanding that the legislation be applied against Palestinian invasion of an archaeological site in Samaria.
Over the past several months, Regavim has documented a persistent stream of incursion and annexation, as residents of Burkin, a village located in the area under Palestinian Authority jurisdiction, have taken over a significant parcel of land in the Ariel Commercial Zone – located in Area C, under full Israeli jurisdiction.
The area that is being quietly annexed is adjacent to an archaeological site known as Khirbet Khurkosh, where a magnificent Hellenistic Era mausoleum was discovered, along with other remains dating from the Iron Age through the Middle Ages.
This gradual annexation began with road work, which was soon followed by land clearing and preparation for agricultural work. Mature olive trees were quickly planted, in an attempt to make the newly-cleared area look “old” – and now, a large structure, already connected to electricity infrastructure despite its considerable distance from the village, is nearing completion. This entire project is unfolding on “survey land,” Israeli state land for which full registration has not been completed.
The recently-filed High Court petition emphasizes that six different requests for enforcement were submitted to the relevant authorities at each of the stages of the annexation process, but the work continued, unhindered, and no discernable enforcement has been carried out.
For years, the Palestinian Authority and its partners in the European Union have exploited the Israeli bureaucratic and legal systems, successfully preventing law enforcement against illegal Palestinian annexation.
In 2018, the “Order for the Removal of New Illegal Structures” was enacted by the defense establishment and the State Attorney’s Office as part of the “Battle for Area C.” This legislation allows the demolition of new structures built without a permit within six months of construction. The order may be implemented within 96 hours of issuance of an eviction order.
The “Removal of New Structures” order is an effective enforcement tool that makes it possible to streamline the law enforcement process and make it more difficult for offenders to establish facts on the ground by abusing the judicial process.
After the “Removal of New Structures” order was enacted, left-wing organizations petitioned the High Court of Justice to strike it down, but their petition was rejected and the High Court approved the order’s use. Nonetheless, to this day the state has made minimal use of this order, despite the fact that it has proven to be the most efficient and effective tool in the fight against illegal construction.
In the petition filed by Regavim Movement and the Samaria Regional Council, attorneys Avi Segal and Yael Cinnamon requested that the High Court order the authorities to apply the “Order for Removal of New Structures” against the ongoing invasion of Khirbet Khurkosh.
Samaria Council Chairman Yossi Dagan said: “The Security Cabinet announced its intention to battle the PA’s annexation of Area C, and the time has come for the enforcement authorities to act accordingly – to approach the problem in a systematic fashion and to act systematically. We must stop the Palestinian Authority’s rampage, and tell them, loudly and clearly, who’s the boss.”
The joint petition stresses that “this case illustrates the PA’s systematic, well-financed and carefully-planned takeover of Area C, which seeks to shift the focal point of Palestinian development from Area B to Area C. The Palestinian Authority is establishing facts on the ground in order to tie Israel’s hands – both in terms of current security considerations and in terms of political leverage in strategic points in Area C. These one-sided facts on the ground will impact the opening positions for future negotiations, and the State of Israel must address them right now.”
The Squatters’ Highway: How the PA connects illegal encampments in Area C to the villages of Area B
The Palestinian Authority has blazed a new illegal trail through the Jordan Valley, connecting the towns of Taysir and Tubas in Area B to its network of illegal outposts in Area C. Regavim: “The Palestinian Authority continues to carry out its masterplan for territorial contiguity in the Jordan Valley, and the State of Israel continues to allow it.”
In recent months, the Palestinian Authority has invested massive human and financial resources to create a new illegal road connecting the large Arab villages of Taysir and Tubas in eastern Samaria with the network of illegal outposts near the Jewish communities of Ro’i and Beqaot and the IDF bases of the Jordan Valley.
The Regavim Movement has been tracking, documenting and warning the authorities about the project for many months: The PA began work on the illegal “squatters’ highway” in Area C as early as November last year. Initially, paving materials were deposited in neat piles all along the route; now, only a few short months later, they have been steamrolled into a solid and smooth surface to accommodate vehicular traffic.
Regavim alerted the Civil Administration and other relevant authorities in the early stages of the project, demanding decisive enforcement action against the illegal activity and those responsible for it. Nonetheless, the PA has managed to steamroll and surface the entire roadway without interference, and if the current pace of “law enforcement” continues, there is every reason to believe that the road will soon be fully paved with asphalt.
“We warned the Civil Administration and the authorities, and appealed to them to take swift, active steps to prevent further progress of the work on the road, designed to support the illegal structures already on the ground and to link the scattered outposts into a network and connect them to the central villages of Area B, but they did nothing,” said Eitan Melet, Regavim’s Field Coordinator for Judea and Samaria.
“The Palestinian Authority is constantly working to create contiguity of Palestinian settlement; they aren’t standing around waiting for a Civil Administration inspector to show up and stop them. Either knowingly or unwittingly, the inaction of the enforcement authorities and the State of Israel is enabling the Palestinian Authority to achieve its vision of territorial contiguity and control in the Jordan Valley.”
Under the radar: Palestinian Authority builds a new illegal school in a Jordan Valley nature reserve
Over the past several weeks, the Palestinian Authority built a new illegal school at Hamam al Maliakh, in the Bazak Nature Reserve in the Jordan Valley. Regavim: “The PA builds, the EU funds, and the State of Israel ignores.”
The Palestinian Authority (PA) built a new school in the site of the historic Hamam al Maliakh hot springs, located in the heart of the Jordan Valley’s Bazak Nature Reserve. The site is in Area C, under full Israeli jurisdiction.
Some years ago, an Arab family took over the site, turning the historic structure into a private residence and making structural changes as if it were their personal property.
Now, aside from the illegal invasion and damage to the site, insult has been added to injury: A new school has sprung up at the site in recent weeks, complete with signage announcing that the construction was funded by the European Union and group of European countries – all of which have been playing an increasingly significant role in the PA’s quiet takeover of Area C in recent years.
The new school is adorned with colorful wall murals – as well as tarpaulin sheets that are meant to hide the illegal structure from the eyes of Civil Administration inspectors.
Regavim turned to the Civil Administration, seeking answers: How is it possible that a school was built in the heart of an historic site located in a national nature reserve – and no one did a thing to stop it?
Eitan Melet, Regavim’s Field Coordinator for Judea and Samaria, explains: “The Palestinian Authority is playing hide and seek with the Civil Administration. The PA builds “confrontation schools” – illegal schools in Area C – for the purpose of anchoring a network of outposts in Area C. The Palestinians come up with new, inventive ways of camouflaging their activities, and the Civil Administration, either intentionally or unintentionally, continues to fall into the very effective trap that the PA is using over and over again: Once these illegal schools are completed, they create a win-win public relations headache which the Civil Administration hasn’t learned to contend with. The PA appears to be the only team on the playing field.”
The Palestinian Authority (PA) took advantage of the Passover holiday recess for large-scale illegal construction, including sites already under court-issued work-stop orders. Regavim: “This pattern repeats itself over each holiday, and the Israeli authorities continue to do nothing to prevent it.”
While Israelis enjoyed the week-long Passover holiday, the PA used the Civil Administration’s vacation to full advantage, carrying out lightning-paced construction at a number of strategically-placed sites in Area C, the portion of Judea and Samaria under full Israeli jurisdiction.
One of the projects aimed at establishing facts on the ground during the inspectors’ vacation is on the outskirts of Rujeib, located between Shechem (Nablus) and the Jewish community of Itamar in Area C. Over the intermediate days of the Passover festival, new areas were leveled for construction and infrastructure was laid for an illegal construction project that broke ground in recent months.
In the vicinity of Duma, a village adjacent to the Alon Road in the eastern Binyamin section of Area C, three permanent structures were built over the holiday – part of an enormous illegal construction project that is doubling the size of the village.
At Khirbet Khurkosh, an archaeological site in central Samaria that has been subjected to large-scale invasion and destruction in recent months, a very large brick-and-mortar structure was built over Passover.
Under current Civil Administration operational guidelines, all field inspectors vacation for the duration of the Jewish high holidays in the fall and Passover in the spring. For a week or more, no oversight, inspection or enforcement activity is carried out in Judea and Samaria. The results have become depressingly predictable: an outbreak of illegal construction in Area C.
Several years ago, Regavim released a report titled “Festivals of Construction” (Hebrew) surveying this phenomenon. Among other recommendations, the report suggested that the Civil Administration hire Druse inspectors to carry out the necessary fieldwork on Jewish days of rest and festivals, paralleling the system used by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor to enforce Israel’s days-of-rest laws and the Ministry of Interior’s system for enforcing Passover Chametz laws.
“These are the tip of the iceberg of the systematic annexation-via-construction program that is carried out on Jewish holidays, which have become festivals of illegal construction in the Arab sector throughout Israel, and particularly in Judea and Samaria,” says Eitan Melet, Regavim’s Field Coordinator for Judea and Samaria. “The authorities know full well what will happen, but fail to take any preventative measures.”
Freedom of Information Petition: Who is providing electricity to illegal Palestinian construction?
The Regavim Movement has petitioned the Jerusalem District Court, after the Civil Administration refused to provide data on the extent of electricity connections apparently supplied by the East Jerusalem Electric Company, an Israeli subsidiary of the Israel Electric Company which is subject to Israeli law, for thousands of illegal Palestinian structures in Judea and Samaria.
Tens of thousands of illegal structures have been built in the last decade in Area C, the section of Judea and Samaria under full Israeli jurisdiction. Most of these structures are connected to the electricity grid operated by the East Jerusalem Electric Company, an Israeli company supervised by the Public Services Authority. Other than the Israel Electric Company, the East Jerusalem Electric Company is the only company in Israel licensed to distribute electricity throughout the country.
To ascertain the extent of this phenomenon, Regavim submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Civil Administration last August. The request focused on electrical connections provided for illegal structures located a few meters from the entrance gate to Efrat in Gush Etzion. These structures, built illegally by Arabs with the encouragement and support of the Palestinian Authority, are connected to the East Jerusalem Electric Company network.
Regavim wanted to understand how the East Jerusalem Electric Company received permission to connect the illegal structures to the grid, and precisely how the electricity pillars were placed: Is there an approved masterplan for the area? Were these structures given permits, or perhaps granted permit exemptions which allowed for their connection to the grid?
The Civil Administration did not respond; after Regavim’s second request for information, the Civil Administration’s official response was that “staff members are working vigorously to formulate a response to this query;” although these structures had been hooked up to the electrical supply only a few months before the query was submitted, the Civil Administration explained that the structures in question are “old,” and that “in-depth examination of the archives is required.”
Months after this puzzling response, no substantive reply was received from the Civil Administration to the Freedom of Information request, so Regavim petitioned the court to compel the Civil Administration to provide satisfactory answers about this absurd situation.
“Aside from the safety hazards posed by unauthorized, unsupervised electrical connections, this situation lends permanence to the illegal structures,” says Yakhin Zik, Director of Operations at Regavim. “It is inconceivable that a company subject to Israeli law should provide unauthorized electrical connections to structures built illegally. It is inconceivable that while on the one hand the Israeli government has vowed to fight and win “the battle for Area C,” on the other hand it is allowing this phenomenon to entrench and reward the illegal construction that is the primary tool for the hostile Palestinian takeover of Area C.”
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