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Israeli university in occupied West Bank to double in size within 5 years

June 19, 2017 11:51 P.M. (Updated: June 20, 2017 1:40 P.M.)
A bulldozer is seen next to a new housing construction site in the Israeli settlement of Har Homa (background) in east Jerusalem on March 19, 2014 (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- An Israeli university built inside an illegal Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank is expected to double in size within the next five years, according to a report from Israeli news daily Haaretz on Sunday.

According to Haaretz, Ariel University, which was built inside the Ariel settlement on the Palestinian lands of the Salfit district in the central West Bank, will receive a fund of approximately 400 million shekels ($113 million) to be used for the expansion, which is being promoted by the ultra-right-wing Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett.

Most of the construction, according to Haaretz, will be funded by surpluses from state money the university received after being upgraded from a college to a university in 2012, as well as from tuition payments and fundraising.

While it remained unclear in which direction the university would be expanded or where future construction would take place, the Ariel settlement's municipal area contains many enclaves of privately owned Palestinian land, to which the land owners are not allowed access, according to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.

“Approximately 47,000 square meters are expected to be added to the campus, bringing its total built area to 104,000 square meters,” Haaretz said, adding that some of the new buildings were already under construction or in the planning stages.

“One will house a faculty of Jewish heritage, another will be devoted to the natural sciences and another to the social sciences. Community health facilities, which will support a medical faculty, are also under construction,” Haaretz said.

According to B’Tselem, Ariel was established in 1978 on Palestinian land that was seized “under the false pretext of imperative military needs and on land that was declared state land.”

In the heart of Salfit district, Ariel has been built “in a way that blocks the urban development of the regional town of Salfit,” B’Tselem said, highlighting that “Israel does not allow lands to be transferred from the Area C category (lands that are under Israeli control and comprise 60 percent of the West Bank) to the Area A and Area B categories, which are under Palestinian control, and thus prevents future development of Salfit.”

Additionally, Israel built its illegal separation wall on the lands of Palestinian villages around Ariel, which “created a wedge” that separates some 25,000 Palestinians living in seven villages -- Haris, Kifl Haris, Qira, Marda, Jammain, Zeita Jammain, and Deir Istiya -- north of Salfit from the district seat, Salfit (10,000 residents), where the villagers receive a variety of services.

Between 500,000 and 600,000 Israelis live in settlements across the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in violation of international law.

The estimated 196 government recognized Israeli settlements scattered across the Palestinian territory are all considered illegal under international law. Meanwhile, although Israeli settler outposts -- unapproved by the Israeli government -- are even considered illegal under Israeli 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.

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