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Israeli settlers start new year with new illegal outpost in Nablus village

Jan. 1, 2017 2:47 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 2, 2017 1:00 P.M.)
NABLUS (Ma'an) -- Israeli settlers started to establish a new illegal outpost on private Palestinian land in the northern occupied West Bank district of Nablus Sunday morning.

Abd al-Karim Hussein, the mayor of the village of Azmut, northeast of Nablus city, told Ma'an via telephone that Israeli settlers brought mobile homes to the Ras al-Ein area in the eastern suburbs of Azmut.

He highlighted that the new outpost is located just a few hundred meters away from the illegal Elon Moreh settlement.

An Israeli army spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding whether or not they were aware of the outpost or if the army planned to take any action against the illegal structures.

Most of Azmut’s land reserves are located in Area C -- part of the more than 60 percent of the occupied West Bank under full Israeli control, where building permits are almost always denied to Palestinian villagers.

A recent report by Israeli rights group B’Tselem used the village of Azmut and other Nablus villages as a case study to illustrate Israel’s legacy of “the process of fragmentation imposed on Palestinian rural land in the West Bank.”

“In practice, each and every restriction Israel has imposed on the residents of Azmut has enabled settlers to encroach on these lands and increase the land under settler control,” the report said, adding that settlers are enabled to “build houses, establish outposts, dig pathways, plant crops, and groves, graze flocks, and take over natural water sources on that land. Meanwhile, villagers are also regularly subjected to physical attacks.”

A controversial bill that would see the legalization of all Israeli outposts recently moved forward in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. The next vote on the bill was reportedly set to be held this month after it was postponed in December.

PLO official Madiha Araj had said was the postponement was made to wait out the remaining days of the US Barack Obama administration.

The Obama administration recently allowed a UN resolution to pass that reiterates the illegality of settlements under international law, while President-elect Donald Trump has publicly come out in support of settlements and has tweeted assurances to Israel to “stay strong” until he takes office on Jan. 20.

Both proponents and opponents of the so-called Legalization bill have warned that the legislation would pave the way for the annexation of the entirety of Area C.

Meanwhile, the same morning the new outpost was erected, Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett announced his plans to propose legislation by the end of January that would see one of Israel’s largest illegal settlements annexed.

B’Tselem argued in their report that under the guise of a "temporary military occupation," Israel has been "using the land as its own: robbing land, exploiting the area’s natural resources for its own benefit and establishing permanent settlements," estimating that Israel had dispossessed Palestinians from some 200,000 hectares (494,211 acres) of lands in the occupied Palestinian territory over the years.

B’Tselem highlighted the “key role” of Israeli settlers in further isolating Palestinians from their lands, either through the establishment of outposts officially unrecognized by the Israeli government, or through the regular use of violence or threats of violence against Palestinians.

The movement of Israeli settlers taking over Palestinian land, and further displacing the local Palestinian population has been a "stable" Israeli policy since the takeover of the West Bank and Jerusalem in 1967, B'Tselem said, underscoring that all "Israeli legislative, legal, planning, funding, and defense bodies" have played an active role in the dispossession of Palestinians from their lands
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