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Israelis set up new illegal outpost in northern Jordan Valley

May 16, 2017 4:18 P.M. (Updated: May 16, 2017 6:39 P.M.)
(Peace Now, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- A group of Israeli settlers have reportedly begun setting up an illegal outpost in the northeastern occupied West Bank district of Tubas, official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported on Tuesday.

Quoting Aref Daraghma, a Palestinian official who monitors settlement activity in the northern West Bank, Wafa said that settlers set up mobile homes and solar panels in the area where the village of Khirbet al-Sweida once stood in the northern Jordan Valley.

Daraghma added that the settlers had also brought construction equipment and material, and begun digging a pool in the area.

Wafa said that Palestinians living in Khirbet al-Sweida had been evacuated by Israeli authorities to make space for Israeli settlements in the area.

In response to a request for comment, a spokesperson for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Israeli agency responsible for implementing Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian territory, told Ma'an that the "constructions in question were illegally built without the required approval of the qualified authorities, enforcement will be held against it."

At least two other illegal settlement outposts have been erected since the beginning of the year in the Nablus and Ramallah districts of the West Bank , although settlers in the Ramallah-area outpost were later mandated by Israel to dismantle their own structures.

An estimated 500,000 to 600,000 Israeli settlers reside in 196 illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem and in a further 232 settler outposts considered illegal both by international law and Israeli domestic law -- despite Israeli authorities commonly retroactively legalizing the outposts.

While the Israeli government typically maintains that the Israeli settlers erecting the outposts act independently from government policy, the outposts tend to be strategic in their location in the West Bank and often times serve as corridors between existing official settlements in order to create facts on the ground and more easily expand the settlements in the future.

Forming a third of the occupied West Bank, with 88 percent of its land classified as Area C -- the parts of the West Bank under full Israeli military control -- the Jordan Valley has long been seen by Israel as a strategic area to maintain under its authority.

Human rights groups and international leaders have strongly condemned Israel’s settlement construction, claiming it is a strategic maneuver to prevent the establishment of a contiguous, independent Palestinian state as envisioned in the two-state solution by changing the facts on the ground.

Israeli human rights group B’Tselem has argued 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.

The controversial Regularization law which passed in February could grant official Israeli governmental recognition to more than a dozen illegal settlement outposts in the West Bank established on private Palestinian lands, provided that they can prove they were built “in good faith” -- without knowledge that the land upon which it was built was privately owned by Palestinians.
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