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NGOs file challenge to Israel settler law

Israeli and Palestinian rights groups petitioned the Supreme Court on Wednesday asking it to strike down a new law allowing expropriation of private Palestinian land for Jewish settlers.

Israeli group Adalah said that it and the east Jerusalem-based Legal Aid and Human Rights Center sought to overturn the “dangerous” law, which was approved by the Israeli parliament late on Monday.

It legalises dozens of wildcat outposts and thousands of settler homes in the occupied West Bank, and prompted a Palestinian call for the international community to punish Israel.

“We have very strong arguments against the law,” Adalah’s lawyer Suhad Bishara said outside the court.

“We definitely hope that the Supreme Court will declare that the law is unconstitutional and thus cancel it,” she added.

Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has himself warned the government that the law may be unconstitutional and risks exposing Israel to international prosecution for war crimes.

He has said he will not be able to defend it before the Supreme Court and Israeli daily Maariv said on Wednesday that he may even testify against it.

The United Nations, the European Union and the Arab League strongly criticised the legislation on Tuesday, although the new administration of US President Donald Trump remained silent.

“This sweeping and dangerous law permits the expropriation of vast tracts of private Palestinian land,” Bishara said in a statement.

“It violates the property rights both of resident and refugee Palestinians.”

Israel’s attorney general has said the law is unconstitutional and could open the country up to prosecution at the International Criminal Court, based in The Hague.

The UN Security Council passed a resolution in December stating that settlements have “no legal validity” and demanding that Israel stop building in the West Bank, including annexed east Jerusalem.

Bishara said the new law flouted that resolution.

“The transfer of the occupying power’s civilian population into occupied territory is a war crime,” she said.

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