HCJ 6061/11 head of the Beit Furik village council v Commander of IDF Forces in the West Bank

Since the start of the second intifada, many Israeli settlements in the West Bank have begun expanding the area under their control by preventing Palestinians from accessing to their lands. One of the most common methods is construction of illegal fences, as well as violence against Palestinians trying to reach their land.

According to the petition submitted by Yesh Din on behalf of the head of the Beit Furik village and four residents, this was the situation the residents faced when the settlement of Itamar was built next to the village. According to the petition, after a series of violent incidents against Palestinians starting in 1996 upon the establishment of the Gidonim outposts, and all the more so since the second intifada, army forces began preventing Palestinians from accessing their lands, except during the olive harvest season, claiming that it is incapable of protecting Palestinians from settlers.

The petitioners claimed that in 2004, the army conducted a tour for the council heads of the Palestinian villages adjacent to the settlement of Itamar. During this tour, army representatives instructed them not to attend lands near the settlement fence because the army is incapable of protecting them. These things were conveyed orally without any legal written order. With time, denial of access for residents of Beit Furik to their lands was expanded and they were forced to coordinate with the army ahead of time – without receiving any written order. In the absence of a written order, the residents’ ability to appeal the arbitrary command was limited.

In 2010, the residents of Beit Furik addressed the military commander with the assistance of Yesh Din to demand that he fulfill his legal duty to protect them. No response was provided, so in 2011, the council head and residents petitioned the High Court of Justice (HCJ) to demand it instruct the Civil Administration, the Samaria Regional Council and the Itamar Cooperative Association to dismantle all physical barriers positioned illegally on the village’s land and ensure that denial of access by force or illegal restrictions cease.

The petition stated, “It is again evident, as in many cases of illegal denial of access in the OPT, that [Israeli] law enforcement authorities humiliate themselves and us; denial of access, achieved illegally at first by Israeli citizens, prevent the landowners – the petitioners – from reaching and farming their land. Enforcement authorities are fully aware of this.”

Following th petition, the State admitted that Palestinians’ access was indeed denied without a legal order, but announced that the GOC Central Command will issue a closure order that will clarify which territories are closed off. In March 2012 the closure order was issued, which enabled the village residents to access most of their land, which spans several hundred dunams (acres). In September 2012, the residents were able to resume farming their land.

Petition Status: As a result of the order, the petition was dismissed and the court ruled NIS 7,500 court expenses in favor of the petitioners.