SALFIT (Ma'an) -- Settlers from the Israeli settlement of Leshem in western Salfit on Wednesday razed Palestinian agricultural lands and tore up rocks near archaeological sites between the villages of Kafr al-Dik and Deir Ballut near Khirbet Deir Samaan, witnesses said.
The incident suggests that residents of Leshem -- a neighborhood of nearby Ale Zahav settlement inaugurated in Aug. 2013 and considered one of the first major new settlements in the last twenty years -- are poised to expand by snatching up land in nearby Palestinian villages.
Local researcher Khalid Maali told Ma'an that Israeli settlers used jackhammers to break rocks to be used for paving the street as well as construction in the settlement, nearly encroaching on ancient historical sites.
Maali said that bulldozers broke rocks less than 10 meters away from the Khirbet Deir Samaan area, which he says is a "real danger on the historical site that was built and carved in stones more than 1600 years ago."
The Leshem settlement was constructed in 2013 on Palestinian lands from the nearby Kafr al-Dik and Deir Ballut villages, and at the time Maali told Ma'an that three major architectural sites in the area were damaged by construction.
Maali added that some 12 thousand dunums were confiscated from the Kafr al-Dik village out of the original 20 thousand dunums that the space had, leading to a severe lack of land for local farmers.
Leshem is located within the expansive Ariel settlement bloc as it cuts deep into the northern West Bank south of Nablus.
According to Israeli news site Maariv, as of August 2013 72 Jewish families were living in Leshem and 70 more were expected to do so by Aug. 2014.
More than 550,000 Jewish settlers live in settlements across the West Bank, which has been under Israeli military occupation since 1967.
The construction of settlements and the transfer of the occupying power's population into occupied lands is strictly forbidden under international law, and critics have liked the situation to "colonialism" and "apartheid."