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  • ACRI

Confiscating Structures in the West Bank Without Hearings or Prior Notice

Khirbet Humsah
Illustration: Khirbet Humsah, November 2000. Photo by Sarit Michaeli, B’Tselem

The Israeli Civil Administration has refused to recognize many Palestinian communities that have lived in Area C for decades. This lack of recognition means an unwillingness to plan, connect to infrastructure, and issue building permits. Although the Civil Administration is unwilling to acknowledge it, these villages are the only homes of their residents. They live, raise children, lead communal lives, make a living, and receive health, educational and medicinal services there. In the absence of recognition, they are forced to build without permits, and the threat of demolition constantly hovers over them.

Recently, there has been a massive increase in the use of seizure and confiscation orders to take over structures in these communities, in place of enforcement via laws that typically apply in the field – namely, planning and construction laws. According to regulations through which structures are confiscated, no pre-confiscation proceeding is required – neither hearings nor even prior notice, and the structure may be seized up to three months from the date of its erection, even if it is inhabited. This procedure was originally intended to deal with the establishment of outposts on private Palestinian land, yet in recent years it has increasingly been used against unauthorized Palestinian construction.

On the ground, an inspector arrives to document the structure and, some time later, forces arrive in the morning to wake up the villagers, take over the structure and issue orders retroactively. Recently, the structures of two entire communities were demolished – namely, Ras a-Tin and Khirbet Humsa, and a structure or two are confiscated nearly daily. The definition of “structure” is very broad, such that by virtue of the regulations, water cisterns are confiscated (after their contents are dumped), water trailers, tarpaulins, animal pens, solar panels, and more.

On August 5, 2021, we appealed to the head of the Civil Administration and the Legal Advisor to the Judea and Samaria region, along with Bimkom - Planners for Planning Rights, calling upon them to amend the order and enact a hearing obligation. We further requested that they limit the use of confiscation orders to its original purpose – only in cases wherein the structure is erected on private land without the owner's permission, and only close to the date of the structure’s erection. In the appeal, ACRI Attorney Roni Peli noted that the systemic use of seizure and confiscation orders, without prior notice or offering victims opportunities to argue against these orders, is an abusive and unacceptable policy that does not comply with the law applicable in the Occupied Territories.

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