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New settlement bloc established in Bethlehem

February 15, 2014 at 12:20 pm

Palestinians sources have stated that Israeli occupation forces have allowed settlers to establish a new settlement bloc in the town of Beit Sahour, east of Bethlehem. This will mean seizing control of approximately 11,000 square metres of the towns land, putting an end to investment projects being carried out in the town.

The sources explained that the bloc is being established on a hilltop, on which an Israeli military post “Ush Ghrab” had been built and which was vacated 7 years ago.

These sources also stated that after the army had vacated the post, the Beit Sahour municipality made plans to build a hospital and amusement park in its place. However, an Israeli settler group repeatedly came to the site to pre-empt a possible seizure of the land.

In 2010, the Israeli occupation forces issued an order preventing Palestinians from reaching the hilltop claiming that it was a closed military area.

The settlers continued to organise protests on the site to pressure the Israeli government to completely seize the land and establish a settlement bloc to link the settlements west and south of Bethlehem and the Abu Ghneim (Har Homa) settlement in Jerusalem.

Mazin Qumsiyeh, an activist against the Wall and settlements, warned against the new Israeli decision by saying “this decision is dangerous for the villages of Beit Sahour and for the municipality as a whole; it is an attempt to erase Beit Sahour and veto its organisational structure. Because “Ush Ghrab” is part of the villages’ land, and is close to a number of houses and facilities, if their project is successful, the settlers will live in the centre of the city.”

Beit Sahour mayor, Hani Al-Hayek, said “After the army post was vacated in 2006, the land became property of the Beit Sahour municipality. The area of this land before being seized by the army was about 11,000 square metres. We must keep in mind that the municipality and the Palestinian Authority, with support from various parties, commenced the establishment of projects here, including parks, playgrounds, a children’s hospital, and other projects.”

Al-Hayek emphasised the efforts to thwart the settlers’ attempts to seize the area and the people of Beit Sahour’s defence of their land against this attack.