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Court orders colonists out of Hebron shops

Court does not specify whether the Palestinian owners will retain their property

Gulf News

Ramallah: After five years of continuous judicial confrontation with Israeli colonists, the Israeli Higher Court of Justice has fixed April 24 as a deadline for Israeli colonists to vacate two key shops in the Al Hisbah area of the Hebron Old Town. However, the court ruling did not issue a decision enabling the shops’ original owners to take over their properties. The two shops are owned by two Palestinian brothers, Abdul Razzaq and Abdul Jawad Al Owaywi, from the city of Hebron.

The Israeli colonists, escorted by Israeli security forces attacked the two shops in early 2008, ousting their Palestinian owners. The shops are located in strategic location in Hebron Old Town. The Al Owaywi family with the help of the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee lodged several complaints with the Israeli courts until it finally reached the Israeli Higher Court of Justice.

Speaking to Gulf News, Emad Hamdan, who heads the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee, said while the court has ordered the colonists to vacate, it did not grant the Palestinian original owners access and ownership of their seized properties.

“We are totally suspicious about the way the Israeli military forces will implement the court’s ruling,” he said.

“We believe that the Israeli military will vacate the shops and hand them over to other colonists or keep the shops under the supervision of the Israeli troops themselves,” he stressed.

“The Israeli forces will play dirty games when they implement the court’s ruling. If the Israeli forces want to show honesty, the two shops should be returned to the possession of their Palestinian owners who presented the court with all the necessary and official ownership documents and proved beyond doubt they were the undisputed owners of the shops. Their ownership was the reason which forced the court to order the evacuation of the Israeli colonists,” he said.

Hamdan said the Palestinians know that the last thing the Israeli courts want is issuing decisions evacuating colonists, but the documents presented by the Palestinian side did not leave any room for the colonists to claim ownership. “Even in such conditions, the Israeli Higher Court of Justice did not order the Israeli military to return the shops to the Palestinian owners, giving the military enough room to handle the situation on their own way, which will surely be against the Palestinian interests and basic rights,” he said. According to international humanitarian law, the Israeli occupation forces are obliged to protect the rights of the Palestinians who live under occupation. “We believe that it is the sole responsibility of the Israeli military forces to return the properties of the Palestinian original owners,” he said.

“The ruling of the Israeli Court of Justice is incomplete and does not bring justice to the Palestinians,” he said. “The court’s decision is yet another step to turn around justice and truth by giving the political and colonial agenda of the Israeli government the top priority.”

Hebron Rehabilitation Committee announced that in addition to evacuating the Israeli colonists from the two shops, the properties should be returned to their Palestinian original owners, or the committee will never consider the case was closed and will follow it up until those properties are eventually returned to Al Owaywi family.

Meanwhile, the committee announced that the Israeli Higher Court of Justice will pass a final verdict on an appeal submitted by the committee and the Palestinian owners of Al Rajabi Building on February 17. Israeli colonists have taken over the five-storey building which is located in the heart of the Old Hebron Town which connects the colony of Karyat Araba’a with the other spreading Israeli colonies and outposts around Hebron.

Several Israeli courts have decided that it was not the right of the Israeli colonists to take over the building, but surprisingly on September 13, the Israeli Central Court declared it was their right and granted them the right to take over the building.

“The Israeli Criminal Lab of the Israeli Police and that of the Israeli Public Prosecution have repeatedly reported the fake documents the Israeli colonists have provided to the courts,” said Hamdan. The Hebron Rehabilitation Committee has objected against the ruling of the Israeli Central Court and the objection was approved on condition that the committee deposits 100,000 Shekels in the court’s fund till the Israeli Higher Court of Justice issues its final decision in the dispute.