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Israel is 'looting' Palestinians' natural resources in West Bank, says NGO

Labourers work at a quarry in Hebron [Najeh Hashlamoun/Apaimages]

Israel is "looting" the Palestinians' natural resources in the West Bank, with the blessing of the Supreme Court, an NGO has charged.

According to Yesh Din, the Israeli quarrying industry in the occupied West Bank has "expanded significantly" since a ruling by Israel's top court, rejecting a petition brought by the NGO demanding an end to all mining and quarry activities in the region.

Yesh Din's petition had claimed Israeli policy of "economic exploitation of occupied territory" constitutes a "blatant violation of international law". But in 2011, Israel's Supreme Court rejected the petition, "thereby regulating a colonial exploitation of natural resources on occupied land".

According to data obtained by the NGO, the amount of gravel mined in Area C of the West Bank –including both Israeli and Palestinian quarries – rose by 40 per cent from 2008 to 2015.

Over 20 per cent of the State of Israel's general consumption now comes from the quarries owned by Israel in the occupied West Bank.

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These developments are included in the NGO's new position paper "The Great Drain", which describes "decades of Israeli looting of natural resources in the West Bank" as "the embodiment of colonialism".

The court ruling, meanwhile,

has rendered meaningless the acceptable interpretation of international humanitarian law, leaving in place the continued, irreversible exploitation of the occupied territory for the Israeli's economic purposes.

According to Yesh Din: "Israel has an explicit and direct economic interest in increasing the number of quarries in the West Bank." In 2009, fees and royalties paid to the Civil Administration – the Israeli body managing the occupation – was 28 million shekels ($7.9 million). By 2015, this had risen to 74 million shekels ($21 million).

In total, between 2009 and 2015, the Civil Administration received royalties worth over 285 million shekels ($80.8 million) from quarries in Area C of the West Bank.

The NGO also reports that official state documents "indicate that the Israeli authorities have a long-term plan to rely on the mining potential in the West Bank for at least the next 30 years."

Such "strategic planning" reveals Israel's "intentions to continue to exploit the military occupation for its economic interests, while depleting the natural resources in the occupied territories and irreversibly damaging the Palestinians' ability to utilise these natural resources".

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