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Israel continues leveling private Palestinian lands for illegal settlement expansion

June 21, 2017 7:50 P.M. (Updated: June 24, 2017 10:55 A.M.)
NABLUS (Ma’an) -- Israeli bulldozers continued on Wednesday, for the second day in a row, leveling Palestinian lands south of Nablus in the northern occupied West Bank in preparations for new settlement construction.

Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian official who monitors settlement activity in the northern West Bank, told Ma’an that Israeli military bulldozers continued leveling privately-owned Palestinian lands in the village of Jalud south of Nablus, as part of plans for the construction of Shvut Rachel East -- an illegal Israeli settlement that was approved in February under the pretext of compensating residents of the Amona outpost.

A spokesperson from COGAT, the Israeli agency responsible for implementing the Israeli government’s policies in the occupied Palestinian territory, said they were looking into reports of the work.

Despite the fact that the Amona residents refused the plan to relocate to Shvut Rachel East -- which is located on Jalud’s lands -- the Israeli government continued with its settlement plans. Israel then approved plans for the Amichai settlement, where the Amona settlers agreed to live -- to be Israel’s first new official settlement in more than two decades, which broke ground on Tuesday.

Israeli officials have continuously referred to Shvut Rachel East as a “neighborhood of Shilo settlement,” and not an entirely new settlement, “despite being located far from any built up area of Shilo, creating a new and distant expansion to the settlement,” according to settlement watchdog Peace Now.

The group condemned the settlement expansions earlier this month, saying that Amichai would be located near Shvut Rachel East on adjacent hilltops. “Under the disguise of ‘compensation’ to the Amona settlers, two new settlements, located one next to the other, are now in the making,” the group said.

The two new settlements are aimed at expanding the Shilo settlements to the east towards the Jordan Valley, according to Peace Now.

“The two new settlements are located in a region that serves as focal point of settler land takeover and settler violence, preventing Palestinians from reaching their lands,” the group added.

Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi has denounced Israel for the planned expansions. “Clearly, Israel’s creeping annexation of Palestine is escalating because of the international community’s inability to translate its verbal statements and condemnations into serious and concrete actions to bring Israel to account,” Ashrawi said.

The Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (ICBS) released data on Monday showing a 70 percent rise in construction of settlements during the past year compared to previous year, with Peace Now warning of increasing numbers in the coming months.

Marking 50 years since Israel first annexed East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza, NGO Amnesty International announced on Wednesday that it was launching a campaign to convince the international community to implement a full boycott of illegal Israeli settlements across the occupied Palestinian territory.

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