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From the field

19 Sept. '11: Civil Administration tries to legitimize the Ofra settlement retroactively

The settlement of Ofra. Photo: Yehezkel Lein, B'Tselem.

On 15 September 2011, the State Attorney's Office, in response to a petition filed by the Palestinian villages ‘Ein Yabrud and Silwad in June 2011, informed the High Court of Justice that, at the direction of the political echelon, it had instructed the Civil Administration to prepare a “community demarcation” map for Ofra. The map will set the municipal borders of the settlement and enable the making of a detailed outline plan, which will legitimize the unlawful construction undertaken in the settlement. Preparation of a community-demarcation map is one of the four conditions that the Sasson Report held was necessary to render a settlement lawful under Israeli law. The state’s response did not specify a date for completion of the map, nor did it relate to the legality of the expropriation of privately owned land of residents of the two Palestinian villages, on which the settlement was built.

Israel’s settlement policy in its entirety violates the rules of international law, which prohibit the establishment of settlements in occupied territories. Moreover, even according to the rules determined by the Israeli government, the Ofra settlement is unlawful, and its status is the same as that of any unauthorized outpost on the basis of the conditions established in the Sasson Report. At least 58 percent of its built-up area is registered in the Land Registry Office under the names of Palestinians. The jurisdictional area of the settlement has never been defined and no outline plan has been approved, meaning that the hundreds of buildings in the settlement were built illegally. Preparing a “community demarcation” map is one of the four conditions for approving a settlement as lawful in accordance with Israeli law, as established in the Sasson Report.

Segment of a map indicating the status of land in Ofra. All the colored areas are recorded in the Land Register on the name of Palestinians. Segment of a map indicating the status of land in Ofra. All the colored areas are recorded in the Land Register on the name of Palestinians. To download the map, click here.

The existence of the settlement caused extensive violations of the human rights of Palestinians living in the area. The immediate infringement is to the right of property of the Palestinians on whose land the settlement was built. Also, residents of ‘Ein Yabrud who own farmland near the settlement’s built-up area have been allowed only limited access to their land in recent years, and have consequently suffered loss of income. Ofra’s location, in the heart of a densely populated Palestinian area creates a partition between Palestinian villages and harms the villagers’ freedom of movement.