Israeli settlement outposts established in late 2016 in the northern Jordan Valley, part of the occupied West Bank, are being used to displace Palestinians, according to B’Tselem.
In one case, settlers first established an outpost “on a plot of land privately owned by Palestinians”, before subsequently moving “the outpost’s structures to a nearby hilltop, to a plot of land that had been registered as government property even before the Israeli occupation”.
According to B’Tselem, “Israel appropriates this state land, meant to serve the local population’s needs, and uses it exclusively for Israeli purposes”.
The fact that the settlement outpost was relocated to a plot designated as state land, the NGO added, “suggests the move was coordinated with the Israeli authorities”.
The second new outpost was built eight kilometres south of the first, and by spring 2017, Israeli activists “documented a water main connecting the settlement outpost to the [nearby] Israeli military base”.
The outpost was then relocated further away from the base, but to a new site “located in an area the military had declared a firing zone, also in this case on a plot of land that had been registered as government property before the occupation”.
According to B’Tselem, “the settlement outposts themselves are built on just a few hectares of land, but their footprint far exceeds their actual area, and they serve as the basis for an Israeli takeover of hundreds of hectares of land”.
“Israel’s longstanding policy in this area, aimed at the expulsion of local Palestinian communities, is implemented through a combination of military orders, administrative and planning measures, and military activity”, the NGO adds.
“The settlers who live in these new settlement outposts function as the long arm of the state: exploiting their status as Israeli citizens in occupied land, they attack Palestinian shepherds and deny them access to land that has been the mainstay of their communities’ livelihoods for decades”.
B’Tselem notes that the outposts’ settlers, “put a great deal of effort into blocking Palestinian shepherds from accessing their land”, such as “patrolling the area on horseback or driving ATV’s, armed with guns and clubs, and driving away Palestinian shepherds”.
The “unbearable, dispiriting reality forced on these communities is meant to cause them to leave their homes, ostensibly, of their own will”, B’Tselem stated.
“Creating such a reality is tantamount to an expulsion of residents of the occupied territory from their homes and land and constitutes the forcible transfer of protected persons – a war crime under international law”.
“Everyone involved in the commission of such a crime, including the prime minister, the defense minister, the justices who approve measures leading to expulsion and the military general who signs the orders – bear personal liability”.