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New settler outpost actually temporary Israeli film set, Israeli media reports

June 8, 2017 8:18 P.M. (Updated: June 9, 2017 11:46 A.M.)
An image of what was believed to be a new Israeli settler outpost in Salfit
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli media revealed on Thursday that a film set that had been temporarily used by an Israeli children TV show in the occupied West Bank district of Salfit had mistakenly been perceived as a new Israeli settler outpost.

According to Israel’s The Jerusalem Post, what residents of the village of Deir Istiya had believed was the start of a settler outpost -- considered illegal even under Israeli law -- claims which Ma'an reported on Wednesday, was in fact a filming set for the Israeli children show Yuval HaMebulbal.

The reports of the outpost emerged on Tuesday after a local activist said that settlers had erected 13 tents and a number of wooden caravans on Palestinian land owned by residents of Deir Istiya in the area of Khirbet Shihada.

Palestinian farmers in Deir Istiya said that an armed Israeli settler also threatened them from going near the area.

According to The Jerusalem Post, the filming “forms part of a campaign to promote Israeli movie production in the Samaria Regional Council area of the West Bank,” referring to a "regional council" of Israeli settlements built on occupied Palestinian land in contravention of international law.

The occupied West Bank has been a target of land expropriation and routine violence since Israel’s occupation in 1967, and any Israeli activity in the Palestinian territory is typically seen by locals as indicative of Israel’s aggressive colonization policies in the region.

Meanwhile, residents of Deir Istiya have been prevented from accessing the same lands of Khirbet Shihada where the movie set was erected for more than a decade owing to the expansion of Israel’s illegal Havat Yair settlement.

Coordinator of a popular resistance group against Israeli settlements Rizq Abu Nasser told Ma’an on Tuesday that the lands of Khirbet Shihada have been isolated from residents of Deir Istiya since 2001 after a road connecting the village to their lands in Khirbet Shihada was taken over by the settlement.

Havat Yair was first established on the lands of Deir Istiya as an illegal outpost in 1999, and was slated for evacuation multiple times by Israeli authorities. However, the Israeli government eventually retroactively legalized the outpost.

Yossi Dagan, head of the Samaria Regional Council, reportedly said that the West Bank has a “large area” and “breathtaking views,” and a "local population that is delighted to help and take part.”

It was unclear what “local population” he was referring to, as Israeli settlers are illegally residing in the area and the local Palestinians had feared more of their village’s lands were being confiscated by Israelis as a result of the movie set.

"I still believe that we will transform the Samaria region into the capital culture of Israel," Dagan added.

Between 500,000 and 600,000 Israelis live in settlements across the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in violation of international law. The expansion of settlements and the growth of their population is typically paralleled with an increase in Israeli settler threats and attacks on Palestinians and their properties.

Despite outposts being considered illegal even under Israeli domestic law, earlier this year, Israel passed the outpost Regularization law, which would pave the way for the retroactive legalization of dozens of Israeli settler outposts. Meanwhile, the estimated 196 government recognized Israeli settlements scattered across the Palestinian territory are all considered illegal under international law.
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