Israel Defence Forces (IDF) returned 420 acres of land to five Palestinian villages in the West Bank this week, reports said Thursday. Major General Roni Numa, the head of the Central Command, planned the action as a response to two petitions in the High Court of Justice.
The land was seized after four seizure orders stated military bases of the IDF would be built in the area. Two of the orders came in 1978, and one each in 1980 and 1984. The land is located in Area C of the West Bank. The IDF had built two small army bases on the seized land, but abandoned them in the 1990s. However, the land was not returned to the Palestinians.
Yesh Din, a non-governmental organisation fighting to restore property belonging to the Palestinians, had filed two petitions in the high court on behalf of the villagers whose homeland had been confiscated from them.
"The IDF must review all cases of seized land immediately and return any land seized for no real reason, as both law and common sense dictate," the Jerusalem Post quoted Yesh Din's attorney Shlomy Zachary as saying.
"Sadly, a High Court petition was necessary before the state agreed to return private land to its owners. Using territories under military occupation is permitted only for imperative military purposes and is the exception to the obligation of upholding the right to property," he said
"As such, this measure should be used sparingly, in order to prevent damaging land belonging to protected persons under military occupation. There has obviously not been such need for the land in question for quite some time, if ever."
In 2012, the IDF in a similar ruling had rescinded the occupation of Palestinian land amounting to three hectares, but had not informed the owners about it.
Also, in 2013, the IDF cancelled one of the land seizure orders from 1978 after a Yesh Din petition, to return back 70 hectares of land to a Palestinian village Burka, where the Homesh settlement is now located, reports Xinhua.
Israel had captured the West Bank area in 1967 after the Six-Day War with Arab countries like Jordan, Egypt and Syria, following which it was common practice to confiscate Palestinian land to build IDF military bases. On the seventh day, a ceasefire was signed after the Arab side faced greater number of casualties than the Israeli side. Israel, in that war, had ceased the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan, and the Golan Heights from Syria.