by Amira Hass. February 23, 2014
The Defense Ministry is in the process of legalizing the status of Avigayil, an illegal outpost in the southern Hebron Hills. Avigayil, founded in 2001 on more than 1,000 dunams (250 acres) of land, is located between the Maon and Susiya settlements. The authorization process is at an advanced stage.
Avigayil is part of a chain of Jewish settlements and unauthorized outposts in the area that is rapidly expanding into a bloc that also includes Beit Yattir, Havat Lucifer, Mitzpeh Yair, Susiya, Maon, Havat Maon and Carmel. The official combined area of the legal settlements in the area, excluding Maon and Avigayil, is 10,180 dunams.
To the east of the bloc is a 30,000-dunam Israel Defense Forces firing range, from which the Defense Ministry is trying to remove eight Palestinian villages. The case is currently in mediation.
The gradual expansion of the settlements’ residential and agricultural areas has been accompanied by regular, well-documented efforts by settlers to block the access of Palestinian farmers and shepherds in the area to increasing portions of their land. The numerous closure orders issued by the IDF for the area also limit Palestinian access to their land. The IDF says the closures are designed to prevent friction and conflict between the populations.
Administrative measures against most of Avigayil’s buildings, which were erected without permits, have been suspended since the various orders were issued. The Mount Hebron Regional Council and the Civil Administration are cooperating on drafting a master plan for the site. During a visit to Avigayl in late December, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon stressed that the work to legalize the outpost was moving ahead.
Soon after Avigayl’s founding in 2001, stop-work orders were issued, but never carried out. Avigayil was one of 26 outposts that then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon promised in 2003 to evacuate as part of the Road Map. Some 30 familes live in Avigayil.