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Israeli forces level lands in Salfit-area village for alleged settlement expansion

May 2, 2017 6:02 P.M. (Updated: May 2, 2017 9:15 P.M.)
SALFIT (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces on Tuesday leveled privately-owned Palestinian lands in the village of Bruqin, west of Salfit in the central occupied West Bank.

Resident of the village Hajj Abd al-Khaliq Sabrah, 85, told Ma'an that Israeli forces leveled approximately 50 dunums (12.5 acres) of land in the Khallat al-Zaafaran and al-Harayiq areas of the village, which is owned by several villagers.

"The Israeli occupation prevented us from cultivating the land because it's near the industrial settlement Ariel. We used to plant it with wheat and barley and now bulldozers of the occupation are razing the land day and night," Sabrah said, adding that he went to his land and protested against the ongoing earthworks, but was forced out by Israeli forces.

Sabrah added that he is prepared to take the matter to court.

Another landowner from the village, Ikrima Samara, told Ma'an that of the 50 dunums razed on Tuesday, 20 dunums belonged to him. Samara highlighted that “the rest of the land” in the area is slated for confiscation.

Mayor of Bruqin Said Allan said the ongoing land confiscations and earthworks were part of Israeli plans to enlarge illegal settlements in the area, specifically the nearby Ariel settlement.

"We haven't been officially notified of any land confiscation, and when we saw bulldozers leveling the land we went there and Israeli authorities told us that 72 dunums of land would be confiscated," Allan said.

A spokesperson for COGAT, the Israeli agency responsible for enforcing Israeli government policies in the occupied Palestinian territory, told Ma’an they would provide comment on the matter by Wednesday.

The village of Bruqin, like many villages in the West Bank, is surrounded by a cluster of illegal Israeli government-approved settlements, which number 196 across the occupied territory.

In a 2009 report from the International Women’s Peace Service, published by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the group recorded that out of the 22,000 dunums of land of Bruqin, the village had lost around 6,000 dunums to a highway and to the Barqan and Bruchin settlements.

“A further 1,000 to 2,000 dunums are expected to be lost when the (separation) wall is constructed to the north of the village along the planned route,” the report said, adding that 1,478 dunums of Bruqin’s land area located in Area B, while the northern part of the village is located in Area C -- the area of the West Bank under full Israeli civilian and military control.

Furthermore, access to agricultural lands has been made nearly impossible, as a settler bypass road that cuts through the village’s lands prevents locals from passing onto and working on their lands.
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