On Thursday morning (May 25, 2023), residents of Burqa woke up to heavy mechanical equipment carrying out infrastructure work on their private lands in the outpost of Homesh. On Monday, May 29, 2023, the outpost was reestablished in an area that is defined as state lands. Throughout the initial stage, the outpost will serve as a yeshiva. The illegal works were carried out based on the decision of the Minister of Defense. The residents of Burqa suffer from frequent cases of violence by settlers, and the re-establishment of this outpost will prevent them from returning to their lands, further violating the law, this time by Defense Minister Gallant and the additional minister in the Ministry of Defense, Smotrich, and disregarding international agreements that Israel committed to.
On the morning of Thursday, May 25, 2023, residents of Burqa woke up to heavy mechanical equipment operating on their lands, leveling the hilltop of the Homesh outpost. The works were carried out in violation of the law, but according to reports, with the approval and encouragement of the Ministers of Defense, Gallant and Smotrich. On Monday, May 29, 2023, the military set up a structure on the site, which would serve as a yeshiva, and several caravans that the military would use to guard the outpost. The yeshiva was built at a new site on state land in the illegal outpost, but almost all the surrounding area is privately owned land belonging to the residents of the Palestinian village of Burqa. Israel decided to violate the agreement with the United States that was signed during the days of the Bush administration and which primarily aimed to abstain from building new settlements in the areas evacuated during the disengagement in 2005.
The authorization of this illegal outpost constitutes a severe blow to the possibility of establishing a future Palestinian state since its location is deep in the northern part of the West Bank. The decision should be seen as rewarding those who commit violations, theft, and violence. This is because settlers have been committing frequent and severe acts of violence, resulting in the theft of private Palestinian lands.
Only on Wednesday (May 24, 2023), our Settlement Watch Team led a tour for a delegation of high-ranking diplomats from the European Union to the site, who criticized the outpost and Israel’s government policy on the matter. After the visit, settlers from the outpost attacked the residents of Burqa. According to reports from Yesh Din, the attackers set fire to several houses belonging to the residents of Burqa and even opened fire at Palestinians, injuring six.
The illegal outpost of Homesh was established after the evacuation of the Homesh settlement as part of the disengagement plan in 2005. Moreover, not only is it an outpost, meaning an unauthorized settlement established in violation of Israeli law, but it was also built on privately owned Palestinian land and in violation of the Disengagement Law from 2005, which prohibits Israelis from entering the area.
One of the first laws enacted by the Israeli government was an amendment repealing the Disengagement Law from 2005, allowing settlers to legally access the northern West Bank. The new law does not permit living in the evacuated settlement of Homesh (for further details on the changes to the Disengagement Law, click here).
Approximately two months after the repealing of the Disengagement Law, the Commander of the Central Command signed a military order allowing Israeli presence in the Homesh area. Since the order was signed, settlers have been allowed to enter the Homesh area. However, access to the area is still restricted, as it remains forbidden to enter private Palestinian land. Therefore, the government and the settlers established the unauthorized outpost on a parcel of land that is not designated as private, but as state land. On the hill where the outpost stands, there are only two parcels of land that are not considered private, while all other parcels are privately owned by Palestinians (see map below).
It is important to note that even when the outpost is located on one of the non-private parcels, private Palestinian lands will still need to be seized to allow settlers access to the outpost. Seizure is possible when it is done for public purposes. In this case, and if it happens, the seizure will be from private Palestinian land and will not serve Palestinians but only Israeli citizens who choose to visit the illegal outpost.
Furthermore, it should be mentioned that the presence of the small Yeshiva affects a wide area around it. Therefore, moving it to a non-private land also means that Palestinian farmers will still not be able to access their lands. The situation of law enforcement in the Palestinian territories under Israeli occupation has worsened, as senior government ministers ignore the army’s authority and establish outposts in violation of the law, fully aware of the situation.
The establishment and development of the outpost directly contribute to law violations and violence, as we have witnessed in the Homesh area recently. For example, on the night of Wednesday, May 24, the day before construction was set to begin, residents of Burqa once again suffered violence from settlers, and six individuals required medical treatment. On that same evening, several structures and homes were set on fire. It appears that not only do the settlers disregard the law, but the army also fears enforcing it against them.
A legal appeal by the residents of Burqa is still ongoing, demanding the permission for the landowners to return to their land. The Supreme Court has not yet reached a decision on the case, and it is expected to be discussed further in the near future.
Peace Now: “The establishment of the illegal outpost of Homesh on the lands of the residents of Burqa constitutes a violation of international law, a breach of Israel’s commitment to the United States, a violation of Israeli law, an infringement of property rights, and poses a threat to Israel’s security. Homesh is located in an area populated almost exclusively by Palestinians and is expected to be part of the future Palestinian state in any peace agreement. The land greed of a minority within the Israeli public is expressed in these law violations, including by senior ministers of the Israeli government. Furthermore, the presence of Israelis in the northern West Bank is dangerous, provokes friction, and causes harm to human lives.”