Illegal Israeli settlements are ‘nature reserves’! says Israeli Defence Minister

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Palestinian villagers in Ras Karkar resist Israeli troops attempts to clear land to make way for an illegal settlement

THE Palestinian Foreign Ministry yesterday condemned in a statement remarks by Israeli Defence Minister Naftali Bennett in which he announced the establishment of what he referred to as ‘nature reserve’ settlements in the occupied West Bank and said that it will take this matter up with the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

‘The Foreign Ministry condemns in the strongest terms Bennett’s colonialist and expansionist decisions and affirms that the so-called nature reserves are just another scheme for the appropriation and seizure of Palestinian land,’ it said, adding that ‘this goes in the end for the benefit of shoring up settlements in the occupied West Bank’.
The ministry said: ‘We will approach the ICC to inform it of the legal dangers of Bennett’s declaration as part and parcel of the settlements file that will bring Bennett and others like him in front of the ICC.’
The ICC Prosecutor said recently that she will start an investigation into Israel’s settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories, which she said could be looked at as war crimes.

  • Israeli settlers have flooded farmlands of the village of Jalboun, located to the east of the occupied West Bank city of Jenin, with wastewater.

Mayor of Jalboun Nidal Abu al Rub told WAFA that settlers from neighbouring illegal colonial settlements have been discharging their untreated sewage for several days through Israel’s segregation wall.
He added that the toxic stream of sewage that runs steadily is having a devastating effect on the health and livelihood of Palestinians in the area, and urged human rights organisations to immediately intervene to bring this Israeli violation to an end.
The sewage is submerging farmlands, and the rancid smell engulfing the area and mosquitoes swarming it often force farmers to desert their farmlands, which are subsequently seized for the expansion of Israeli colonial settlements.
Settler violence against Palestinians and their property is routine in the West Bank and is rarely prosecuted by Israeli authorities.
Settlers’ violence includes property and mosque arson, stone-throwing, uprooting of crops and olive trees, attacks on vulnerable homes, among others.
Over 600,000 Israelis live in Jewish-only settlements across occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank in violation of international law.

  • The Israeli military has issued orders seizing hundreds of dunums of agricultural land in the towns of al-Khader and Irtas, south of the southern West Bank biblical city of Bethlehem, said Hasan Breijieh, from the Commission for the Resistance of the Wall and Settlements.

He told WAFA that Israel issued a military order for the takeover of 350 dunums of farming land in these two towns for the purpose of expanding a settlements road in order to bypass the Palestinian towns and villages in that area.
He stressed that with the building of the new bypass road, more Palestinian agricultural land will also be inaccessible to their Palestinian landowners and farmers since the road will also take along with it 150 metres of land on both its sides.

  • Israeli settlers have also erected several electric poles on Palestinian land in Khallet Hamad in the Jordan Valley.

Aref Daraghmeh, a local human rights activist, said that settlers erected the electric poles to supply power to a settler-colonial outpost that was established in Khallet Hamad in 2016.
Israeli forces frequently order Palestinian families in the Jordan Valley out of their homes to make room for military drills and prevent them from grazing their livestock.
The valley, which is a fertile strip of land running west along the Jordan River, is home to about 65,000 Palestinians and makes up approximately 30% of the West Bank.
Since 1967, when the Israeli army occupied the West Bank, Israel has transferred at least 11,000 of its Jewish citizens to the Jordan Valley. Some of the settlements in which they live were built almost entirely on private Palestinian land.
The Israel military has also designated about 46 per cent of the Jordan Valley as a closed military zone since the beginning of the occupation in June 1967, and has been utilising the pretext of military drills to forcefully displace Palestinian families living there as part of a policy of ethnic cleansing and stifling Palestinian development in the area.
Approximately 6,200 Palestinians live in 38 communities in places earmarked for military use and have had to obtain permission from the Israeli authorities to enter and live in their communities.
In violation of international law, the Israeli military not only temporarily displaces the communities on a regular basis, but also confiscates their farmlands, demolishes their homes and infrastructure from time to time.
Besides undergoing temporary displacement, the Palestinian families living there face a myriad of restrictions on access to resources and services. Meanwhile, Israel exploits the resources of the area and generates profit by allocating generous tracts of land and water resources for the benefit of settlers.
Israeli politicians have made it clear on several occasions that the highly strategic Jordan Valley would remain under their control in any eventuality.

  • Hamas has declared: ‘The escalating settlement activity in the occupied West Bank and taking over Palestinian homes in Jerusalem after expelling their residents come as part of a colonial Israeli policy aimed at grabbing Palestinian lands, houses, and properties in order to impose a fait accompli to entrench the existence of an apartheid, extremist Jewish state that will not only pose a threat to the Palestinian people, but also to the whole region.

‘The weak positions taken by the Palestinian Authority, which criminalised and undermined the option of resistance in the West Bank as it continues security coordination with the Israeli occupation, coupled with the silence of Arab and Islamic establishments and international community over Israeli crimes and violations against the Palestinian people and their lands, resources and holy sites, have encouraged the Israeli occupation to continue perpetrating such atrocities and violations.
‘This colonial policy will pose further challenges for all Palestinians that require us all to get involved in a unified, mass fight, using popular means of resistance, to face off such dangerous policy and foil it; the Palestinian people have to rule out the possibility of reaching political solutions with the Israeli occupation and pressure decision-makers in the region to put an end to all forms of normalisation with the Israeli occupation and instead reinforce the option of resistance and support the Palestinian people in their struggle for their rights and protect their interests.
‘Egypt’s decision to allow the Hamas leader to travel signals progress on ceasefire negotiations with Israel.
‘In December, Ismail Haniya, chief of the Hamas political bureau, embarked on his first foreign tour since being elected to the position by the Shura Council of the movement in May 2017.
‘Since the Israeli siege was imposed on Gaza more than 13 years ago, officials from Gaza have only been able to travel abroad through Cairo.
‘This has given Egyptian authorities control over their movements, and in the past, they have declined repeated requests from Haniya to allow him to travel abroad.
‘His tour appears, therefore, to signal some development in Hamas-Egypt relations and regional dynamics. So far he has visited Turkey, Qatar and, most significantly, Iran. He may also be going to Russia.
‘This allows Haniya to push forward Hamas’ international relations and internal affairs.
‘Over the past two and a half years, the Egyptian authorities set various conditions in exchange for permitting Haniya to travel on official business.
‘They requested, for example, that he opt out of visiting Iran, Qatar and Turkey and instead go to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. These were conditions Hamas was unwilling to meet as it did not want to give the impression that foreign powers were determining its political agenda.
‘For this reason, Cairo repeatedly refused to grant him permission to travel.
‘By early December, however, the situation had changed.
‘Haniya left the Gaza Strip on December 2nd and upon arrival in Cairo held a series of meetings with Egyptian officials.’