While last week was marked by the demolition of Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria, Israel Land Authority (ILA) inspectors have identified dozens of cases of illegal building on state lands over the last 18 months in Kafr Kassam, an Israeli Arab village located east of Tel Aviv.
Portions of the state lands that were squatted on had been apportioned for agriculture, other parts for residential buildings. The lands were to be marketed for residents of the town to bid on, but were snatched by squatters who built on them illegally.
In each instance, complaints of criminal trespassing were filed to the police, a crime carrying a two-year active jail sentence. Additionally the ILA put out an order to evacuate the squatters from the illegal buildings; an order that several of the squatters petitioned.
Those petitions were rejected last Monday by a regional court in Lod, which thereby gave a green light to orders to tear down the illegal structures. The court ruling noted that the state's eviction order was issued in accordance with the law, and had no legal defect. The judge further fined the squatters 20,000 shekels (roughly $5,700) to cover ILA's court expenses
Following the ruling, enforcement agencies have been ordered to carry out the eviction orders within 30 days.
The excesses of illegal building in the town have reached impressive heights.
One of the squatters, Badir Nahad, illegally built on state lands a massive three-story stone-faced mansion that has not yet been occupied.
Another squatter, Hatam Amar, put down stone paving with iron construction above it in preparation for a pavilion. During the legal battles, Amar continued his illegal building, adding another pavilion to be used as a store for window shutters.
Badir Mohammed Tzalah, yet another thief of public lands, built a three-story building structure. Badir Duniya put up a small brick structure on cast cement paving. Squatter Badir Sana Tzalah had an illegal building put up which she and her family resided in.
Fathi Sarsour had likewise already begun living in the four-story building he illegally built. Squatters Adnan Issa and Samira Sobhi Issa built a one-story brick building, and the structure of a three-story building that had not yet been occupied.
Squatters will pay for eviction
"This is an extraordinarily high concentration of building crimes in a short time-frame and in a relatively small community," said Yisrael Skop, the head of ILA's lands preservation division.
"The squatters effectively harm all residents of Kafr Kassam, since they took by force lands that were supposed to serve law-abiding residents of the community in the marketing of building bids for residence and land stores for the development of the city," added Skop.
The ILA official noted that the incident would be further investigated, and that "all tools at our disposal" will be used against the theft of public lands. He added that the squatters would be required to return to the state all costs of evacuating them, including costs of manpower and mechanical equipment.