By Saed Bannoura
IMEMC & Agencies: Israeli bulldozers uprooted dozens of trees on a hill close to the Jabal Abu Ghneim (Har Homa) illegal settlement, east of the West Bank city of Bethlehem, in order to pave a new road that leads to a planned [illegal] settlement neighborhood of 3000 homes for Jewish settlers.
Bethlehem Governor, Abdul-Fattah Hamayil, stated that the new violation is part of a decision made by the Jerusalem City Council to build more illegal settlement units on Palestinian lands in the area.
Hamayil added that the lands in question are not part of Area A (under Palestinian control), but are located behind the illegal Israeli Annexation Wall built in the area. He said that part of these lands are being planted by their owners, and that the army did not inform the residents of its intensions to uproot the lands.
The governor called on the owners of the lands to bring land deeds and all legal documents to the Legal Unit at his office in order to file appeals in Israeli courts against the latest violation.
Settlements Researcher at the Applied Research Institute (ARIJ) Suheil Khaliliyya, stated that the road Israel is preparing for is part of settlement neighborhood “C” that includes 3000 units, and that Israel is planning to construct 800 in the first phase.
Khaliliyya said that Israel did not give landowners any legal notices as the Jerusalem City Council refers to “Har Homa” as part of Jerusalem, and not as a settlement.
He further stated that, two years ago, Israel built a water distillation plant in “Har Homa C”, as an apparent preparation for more construction and expansion of the settlements.
The researcher said that the current phase includes the construction of two settlement neighborhoods in the area, referred to as C and D, and that each neighborhood will include 3000 units.
The project is also meant to link between Givat Hamatos, Gilo and Har Homa.
He added that the constructions are meant to boost the settlement belt that aims at isolating Jerusalem from Bethlehem, effectively preventing a viable “peace agreement” that would lead to an independent and contiguous Palestinian state.
On his part, Hasan Breijiyya, coordinator of the Popular Committee Against the Wall in Bethlehem, said that what happen in Abu Ghneim is similar to what Israel recently did in Teqoua’ village, east of Bethlehem, as the army uprooted Palestinian trees close to a settlement outpost near the village in order to expand the outpost on the expense of Palestinian lands and property.
Israel’s settlement in the occupied West Bank, including in and around occupied East Jerusalem are built in direct violation of International Law and the Fourth Geneva Convention to which Israel is a signatory.
Israel’s settlements and its Annexation Wall are turning the West Bank into isolated ghettoes, and are isolating the villagers from their own orchards and farmlands.