Israel plans to expand one of its illegal West Bank settlements to triple its current size, a move which will absorb a nearby illegal outpost previously home to the Dawabsheh family’s killer.
Under the plans the Amichai settlement, located north of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, will incorporate the neighbouring outpost of Adei Ad. Adei Ad was previously home to Amiram Ben-Uriel, the extremist Israeli settler responsible for the arson attack against the Dawabsheh family in 2015. The attack killed three members of the family, including 18-month-old baby Ali, and left his brother Ahmed orphaned. The Dawabsheh’s home was situated in the village of Duma, some four kilometres from the Amichai settlement and overlooked by the Adei Ad outpost. Ben-Uriel is facing court proceedings after he was indicted for three counts of murder, but his 16-year-old settler accomplice was released to house arrest in July this year.
According to Haaretz, “sources familiar with the details of the [expansion] plan conceded that at this point the goal of increasing the jurisdiction of Amichai is to legalise Adei Ad.” The Israeli government argues that Adei Ad was “built on state land without legal permits”, though “the state never evacuated it and declared on a number of occasions that it intended to legalise it,” Haaretz reported. Although Israel differentiates between settlements and outposts, which do not have official government recognition, both are deemed illegal under international law which prohibits the transferring of civilian populations into occupied territory.
The plans to incorporate Adei Ad into Amichai came to light during ongoing legal proceedings against the latter’s current boundaries. The case pitted the Israeli Civil Administration, the organisation which administers “Area C” of the occupied West Bank, against Palestinians who argue any further expansion of the illegal settlement will deny them access to their farmland. The Palestinians involved in the case are being represented by NGO Yesh Din, whose attorney, Shlomi Zecharia, said:
The inhabitants of the villages near the outpost have become hostages to the policy that abundantly rewards prizes and gifts to ideological criminals. Cutting off farmlands by means of a false [expansion of] jurisdiction is extreme, disproportionate and needless, and in fact is intended to perpetuate restrictions on and infringement of Palestinian property, this time under the official auspices of the government.
Amichai is inhabited by 40 families who were evacuated from their previous settlement in Amona in February 2017 after the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that it was built on private Palestinian land. Clashes erupted between the settlers and Israeli forces, with 20 police officers injured and 13 arrested for “disturbances”. The families moved in to Amichai in March 2018, the first “new” settlement to be built in 25 years.
Illegal Israeli settlement in the West Bank has been rife since Israel occupied the territory in 1967. Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem states that, as of the end of 2015, there were 127 Israeli government-sanctioned settlements in the West Bank (not including occupied East Jerusalem and Hebron). This was in addition to 100 non-recognised outposts and 15 Israeli neighbourhoods inside the Jerusalem Municipality. These settlements are inhabited by approximately half a million illegal settlers, who remain under the protection of Israeli domestic law despite their location in the West Bank.
Israeli settlers frequently commit crimes against Palestinians living nearby. Last week, illegal settlers punctured and vandalised ten Palestinian vehicles in the village of Ein Yabrud, east of Ramallah, spray painting racist slogans on them. The settlers were escorted by Israeli occupation forces and appear not to have faced any repercussions for their actions. In July, a group of extremist settlers set fire to Palestinian property in the village of Jaloud, on the outskirts of Nablus in the north of the West Bank. Witnesses said that the settlers set fire to Palestinian farmland, including at least 2.5 acres of wheat, as well as a house in the area. The settlers also cut down dozens of Palestinian-owned trees in the area.