Former settlement to return to Palestinian hands: Army

AFP , Monday 16 Sep 2013

Burka residents in the West Bank receive their land back after 35 years following 2011 petition

Land confiscated by Israel 35 years ago - to build a Jewish settlement in the West Bank - will finally be returned to its Palestinians owners, the Israeli military said on Monday.

In 1978 Israel confiscated land belonging to the Palestinian village of Burka in the northern West Bank. It was used to set up the Homesh settlement which was shut down with three others in the area alongside Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005.

The order requisitioning the land from the Palestinians remained in force however, prompting Burka residents to petition the Israeli Supreme Court in December 2011.

"The decree that established Homesh ... was nullified several months ago as a result of an appeal brought to the Supreme Court," an Israeli military spokesman wrote Monday in response to a query by AFP.

"In addition, the closure order that restricted the access of Palestinians to the land was lifted, and the representatives of the petitioners were notified," he added.

He went on to say that by military order Israelis were now barred from the site, but Israeli NGO Yesh Din, a party to the Burka residents' petition, said that settlers were still there.

"Thirty-five years have passed since the land was taken from its lawful owners and now we have been informed that they can lawfully return to their land," it said in a statement on Monday.

"To our regret, we are well aware of the permanent and illegal presence of Israelis at the site," it went on. "We hope ... that the law will be enforced and the Israelis staying there will be removed, so the Palestinian owners can return safely to their lands."

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