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From the field

The Ofra settlement is an illegal outpost

Almost 60% of the settlement is built on land registered to Palestinians

The Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem today (Monday, 22nd December) publishes a report concluding that the legal status of the thirty-three year old Israeli settlement Ofra is identical to that of an unauthorized outpost. This is since large sections of Ofra's built-up area are located on land belonging to Palestinians. Israeli government decisions and high court resolutions prohibit building settlements on private Palestinian land. Recently, general claims that Ofra is built on Palestinian land have surfaced. The present report provides, for the first time, a detailed analysis of this issue.

The report is based on data obtained by B'Tselem from the Civil Administration. According to this data, Ofra's built-up area comprises 670 dunums. B'Tselem obtained 43 land abstracts for 210 dunums, which list the owners as Palestinian residents of nearby villages ‘Ein Yabrud and Silwad. Another 180 dunums consists of land unlawfully expropriated by the Israeli army in 1977.

The total area of this unlawful expropriation together with the land lots for which B'Tselem obtained ownership documents is approximately 390 dunums. Thus, at least 58% of Ofra's built-up area is located on land registered as privately owned by Palestinians. Furthermore, to this day, Ofra's municipal boundaries have never been determined, a detailed outline plan has not been approved for it, nor have building permits been issued as required by law. Therefore, Ofra's hundreds of homes were built unlawfully, making it a building violation of epic proportions.

The Israeli settlement project is illegal under international law. The current report demonstrates that Israel does not fulfill even its declared commitment to respect local law. The Israeli cabinet decided that an Israeli community in the West Bank that is built on land registered to Palestinians, and that was constructed without the requisite permits and without declared boundaries is an illegal outpost, which must be dismantled. Therefore, Israel is obligated to dismantle the Ofra outpost, return the land to its Palestinian owners and compensate them for violation of their rights.