In February the current period of mediation between the villages and Israeli authorities was extended by the court to May 15, and the stay on demolition orders in the area remains in effect. Villagers from Masafer Yatta recently won the right to make critical repairs to the road which serves the villages after damage by the winter storm rendered it completely impassable in many places.
Legal Background from ACRI, Association for Civil Rights in Israel :
Firing Zone 918 and the Move to Mediation
On January 16, 2013, ACRI Attorney Tamar Feldman, filed a petition at the High Court of Justice against the State’s plans to expel some 1000 Palestinians living in eight rural villages in Firing Zone 918, in the South Hebron Hills.
The petition, on behalf of 108 petitioners, mostly heads of large families residing in the area, was directed at the Defense Minister and the Commander of the Israel Defense Forces, and sought to prevent the forced transfers of villagers from their homes. The petition also questioned the justification for the closed military zone order around the area, arguing that it should be lifted and that petitioners’ dwellings be fully recognized. The petition was supported by a legal opinion by Israeli experts on international law Eyal Benvenisti, David Kretzmer and Yuval Shany; a legal analysis by international expert Professor Michael Bothe; and an independent expert opinion by leading social anthropologist Shuli Harman.
On September 2, 2013, the High Court of Justice (Court President Asher Grunis and Justices Hanan Meltzer and Daphne Barak-Erez) held the first hearing with regards to this petition, which was joined together with another petition filed by Attorney Shlomo Lecker.At the close of the hearing, the Justices suggested that the parties enter a mediation process in order to reach a mutually agreeable settlement. The justices suggested formerHigh Court Justice Professor Yitzhak Zamir for the role of mediator.
Representatives of the petitioners agreed to the Court’s proposal. The state requested some time to consult on the matter, and a few weeks later also consented to mediation. On October 27, the Justices issued their decision naming Yitzhak Zamir as the court-appointed mediator. The Justices allocated a period of 4 months for the mediation process along with the possibility of an extension.
Click the link to read ACRI’s comprehensive fact sheet on Firing Zone 918.