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Palestinian restores 50 dunums of his land in Salfit from Israel after 12-year legal battle

Sept. 5, 2016 9:53 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 5, 2016 9:53 P.M.)
SALFIT (Ma’an) -- A total of 50 dunams (12.3 acres) of land were returned to a Palestinian resident of the village of al-Zawiya in the northern occupied West Bank district of Salfit, after a 12-year legal battle following the declaration of his property and surrounding areas as “state land” by Israel.

Abd Shaqir told Ma’an on Sunday that he had filed lawsuits in local and international courts over the years and was finally able to restore his land by an order of the Israeli Supreme Court.

The head of the Colonization and Wall Resistance Commission, Walid Assaf, said the committee would provide Shaqir with barbed wire to protect the 50 dunams of land, and also expressed his willingness to communicate with all governmental officials and afford all expenses of registering the land.

A spokesperson for the Israel Land Authority did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the issue.

Israeli authorities have issued many military orders to confiscate lands in al-Zawiya over the years for the construction of Israeli settlements, checkpoints, outposts, and bypass roads, and Israel’s separation wall.

In March 2004, a total of 317 dunums (78.3 acres) were confiscated in al-Zawiya in order to construct segments of the separation wall, which included Shaqir's land.

His victory came as an exception, as Palestinians rarely succeed in legal battles to fight land confiscations or demolition orders issued on their properties by Israeli authorities.

Israel has also continued to confiscate large swaths of land inhabited by Palestinians over the last decade, and 115 dunams (28 acres) were seized in al-Zawiya as "state land" in April -- in addition to 1,264 dunams (312 acres) already declared "state land" in the area.

After landowners, together with Israeli human rights groups Bimkom and Yesh Din, petitioned the Israeli state, a new procedure was announced that would allow them to challenge the amendments.

However, this procedure does not allow for legal appeals to be made, but rather allows the landowners to submit "reservations."

Israel has recently stepped up land confiscation in the occupied West Bank, with settlement watchdog Peace Now warning in March that Israel had not confiscated such large swathes of land for the purpose of settlement expansion since the pre-Oslo period in the 1980s.

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