Palestinians Confront Settlers At Beit Orot

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Jerusalem residents and Fatah official Hatem Abdul Qader confronted a group of Israeli settlers as they attempted to claim lands on the Mount of Olives on Thursday morning.

The leaders of Beit Orot, an illegal Israeli settlement on the hill north of the Old City of Jerusalem, are aggressively expansionist.

According to their website, ‘Beit Orot is at once defending the sacred traditions of our nation, the physical security of Eretz Yisrael and the integrity of Yerushalayim as the undivided capital of Israel and the Jewish people.’

According to Abdul Qader, the group of Jerusalemites went to the location where Beit Orot settlers were working.

He said the lands were registered to Palestinian families living in the city, and that he went to warn the settlers against continued colonisation of the lands.

The group said the settlers would be forcibly prevented from working the lands if they returned.

The actions follow a 4th January announcement by the Israeli government that permits had been issued to allow for the expansion of the Beit Orot settlement, which the Palestinian Authority quickly condemned.

The plans will see four new residential buildings for 24 families built adjacent to the current structures.

According to The Jerusalem Post, the settlement project is being funded by an American citizen and Jew, Irving Moskowitz.

In May, Moskowitz attended the 2009 Moskowitz Prize for Zionism, an honour he established in 2007.

The Al-Aqsa association for Waqf and Heritage issued a condemnation shortly after reports of the attempted land confiscation surfaced, saying the settlers were moving to create a new Jewish quarter in the heart of Arab East Jerusalem.

The Mount of Olives and Ras Al-Amoud neighbourhoods are the target of virulent settlement plans, the association said.

The statement said that only last week, lands in Ras Al-Amoud were bulldozed in preparation for new settlement units adjacent to an illegal settlement outpost.

A full-blown marketing campaign for the units is already underway, the statement said.

The original outpost in the neighbourhood was an old police headquarters purchased by Moskowitz, who also funds the Beit Orot units.

The expansion of the settlement would undermine the eventual creation of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, the association said.

Earlier on Thursday, Israeli forces entered Barta’a Ash-Sharqiya village before sunrise and handed five families demolition orders for their homes and agricultural buildings in the area, west of Jenin.

Members of the Barta’a village council Tawfiq Qabha said that the Israeli forces overran the village and woke five families in the middle of the night, pounding on doors and handing over warnings that homes would soon be demolished.

Those targeted were identified as: Mustafa Qabha, Omar Ali, Jihad Qabha, Jum’a Qabha and Abdul Aziz Abu Saleh.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the Israeli Civil Administration delivered stop-work orders against 20 Palestinian-owned structures in Area C last week.

Of the structures to be demolished 16 were homes.

They were ordered demolished because they were built without permits.

An OCHA Protection of Civilians report said: ‘The orders, which affect structures in the Hebron, Bethlehem and Qalqiliya governorates, include 14 inhabited residences, placing over 100 people at risk of displacement.

‘Also targeted are five structures under construction (including a clinic) and a water cistern.’

The UN office noted that already in 2010, 37 Palestinian-owned structures in Area C have been demolished, displacing 109 Palestinians, compared to the 2009 monthly average of 16 structures demolished and 27 persons displaced.

The Barta’a Ash-Sharqiya village is in the West Bank, on the west side of Israel’s separation wall.

Residents hold green West Bank identity cards, are prohibited from entering Israel and occupied Jerusalem, and must pass through checkpoints to enter the Jenin governorate or northern Israel.

Much of the village agricultural land was annexed to the nearby settlements of Rehan and Shaqed.

The report sent by the Waqf association expressed concern that the new units are slated to be built ‘less than a hundred metres away from the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, “the target of rich religious Jews”’.

It added that the settlement would further fragment the Palestinian fabric of Jerusalem.

The report added that the settlement construction is ‘a real threat against Jerusalem and its residents and a direct risk to the Al-Aqsa mosque’.

Meanwhile, Israeli bulldozers demolished five water wells and three small storerooms, and confiscated electric generators and water pumps in Idhna, a town west of Hebron.

Abdullah Al-Asoud, whose irrigation systems were destroyed in the demolition raid, said the area affected was in agricultural lands near the separation wall.

The farmer noted that the other residents whose wells were affected, had filed petitions with the Israeli court challenging the demolition notices.

Since the suits were in progress, Al-Asoud said, farmers were surprised to see demolition crews Thursday morning.

Al-Asoud noted that, while the wells and irrigation systems were ripped up, fields planted with crops were destroyed.

The mayor of Idhna, Jamal At-Tamzi, said that the municipality will work in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority to reconstruct the agricultural projects and the wells in the area.

He called the demolitions part of a continued attempt to displace farmers and discourage them from working and producing on Palestinian lands.

The affected farmers, At-Tamzi said, relied on the produce from the lands for their livelihoods and now have nothing with which to support their wives and children.