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Report: Israel to build wall around settlement, separating it from refugee camp

Aug. 25, 2017 9:58 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 26, 2017 9:57 A.M.)
Israeli settlement Modiin Ilit behind the separation wall. View from Bilin (MaanImages/Anna Kokko/File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli media reported on Thursday that Israeli authorities have allocated 5.5 million shekels (more than $1.5 million) to the construction of a wall around Israel’s illegal settlement of Beit El, in order to separate it from the neighboring al-Jalazun refugee camp in the central occupied West Bank district of Ramallah.

According to Israeli authorities and residents in Beit El, the project is being advanced due to security concerns for residents of the illegal settlement, Ynet reported.

Ynet quoted Yael Ben-Yashar, spokeswoman for Beit El, as saying that the wall was requested by the settlement’s residents after “Palestinians attacked the community several times over the last year, including shootings at houses and using explosive devices and Molotov cocktails, which have started fires."

Clashes often erupt in al-Jalazun refugee camp, the eastern side of which directly borders Beit El, as the camp’s rising population, high unemployment rates, and Israel’s movement restrictions on residents in the camp have caused frustrations to soar.

According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the main catalyst for increased confrontation between Palestinians in the camp and Israeli forces is the continued expansion of the Beit El settlement, which has caused clashes to erupt on an almost daily basis in the camp.

In June, Israeli authorities approved the construction of an additional 300 housing units in the settlement.

Ynet quoted a leader in the camp, Abu al-Abd Ibris, as saying that the wall was yet another Israeli land grab of Palestinian territory.

"They (the Israelis) came here in the 1970s, but we are here since forever and the nearby villages also," he reportedly said. "They stole our lands, to which we have full rights."

Al-Jalazun refugee camp was established by UNRWA in 1949, to provide refuge for Palestinians who fled their homes and lands during the creation of Israel in 1948. The camp is now plagued by severe overcrowding, leading to poor housing conditions and health issues.

Meanwhile, Israel began allocating land in the West Bank to Israeli settlers following Israel’s takeover of the territory in 1967. Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territory, including in East Jerusalem, are considered illegal under international law, while the UN has said that Israel’s settlements could amount to a war crime.

Israeli settlements have since continued to expand throughout the Palestinian territory, dismembering Palestinian land and severely complicating any future of an independent Palestinian state. The international community has repeatedly called their existence a major impediment to peace in the region.

Some 600,000 Israelis now live in settlements scattered across the occupied Palestinian territory.

While most Israeli settlements are already fenced off from the Palestinian population in the West Bank, Israeli authorities have planned to annex the some 197 Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territory through the construction of the separation wall -- deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice, which would firmly place the settlements on the “Israeli side” of the barrier.
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