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Israel advances major expansion of settlement between Jerusalem and Bethlehem

December 5, 2019 at 11:05 am

A general view of Israeli settlements in the West Bank on 20 November 2019 [Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency]

Israeli authorities have advanced plans for a major expansion of Gilo, a key settlement in occupied East Jerusalem just north of Bethlehem.

According to human rights NGO Ir Amim, the plans will add more than 1,500 housing units to Gilo.

On 27 November, the Local Planning Committee discussed two new plans for the settlement, “following close on the heels of the plan for 290 housing units” in Gilo which had been approved by the District Planning Committee a week before on 19 November.

One plan (TPS 532325) calls for the construction of 1,444 housing units “in place of the existing number of 288 units on 83 dunams of land within a built-up area located in the north-eastern part of Gilo”, a location adjacent to Palestinian neighbourhood Beit Safafa.

“The plan is being promoted by a government-owned company by the name of Amidar,” stated Ir Amim, adding that “while this plan will not extend the settlement territorially, it will however, greatly increase its population in close proximity to Beit Safafa.”

READ: Israel approves $11.5m in extra funding for West Bank settlements

A second plan (TPS 647842), meanwhile, “will expand the settlement eastwards towards Beit Jala”, and “calls for approximately 110 housing units on 30 dunams of land on the eastern edge of Gilo along Route 60 (The Tunnel Road)”, a plan “being promoted by a private company”.

Part of that particular plot was designed by Israeli occupation authorities as so-called “absentee property” – Ir Amim noted that its original owners “could likely be current residents of Beit Jala since the land in question belonged to the town prior to 1967”.

The NGO stated that “together all three plans will significantly increase the number of Israelis living over the Green Line in Gilo, while also extend the settlement territorially.”

“These plans are being promoted in tandem with the massive road infrastructure developments in the area, including expansion of Route 60 as well as work on the planned route of the Jerusalem Light Rail’s green line,” Ir Amim added.

“Road infrastructure projects are part and parcel of the settlement enterprise and are used to lay the groundwork for future settlement expansion. Not only will these developments expedite traffic between Gilo and West Jerusalem, but it will ease access between the Gush Etzion settlement bloc and Jerusalem.”