News, May 2008
Palestinians living near illegal Israeli settlements denied access to their land
The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, B'Tselem, issued a report this week detaining its findings that Palestinians who live near the illegal Israeli settlements constructed east of the illegal Israeli Land-Grab, Apartheid, Annexation Wall have been regularly and systematically denied access to their land.
The settlements east of the Israeli Annexation Wall in the West Bank violate even Israeli law, and all Israeli settlements on Palestinian land (including those west of the Annexation Wall) are considered violations of international human rights law and the Fourth Geneva Convention.
According to the B'Tselem Report, "For years, Israeli authorities have both barred Palestinian access to rings of land surrounding settlements, and have not acted to eliminate settlers’ piratical closing of lands adjacent to settlements and blocking of Palestinian access to them. Blocking access is one of the many ways used to expand settlements. In recent years, Israel has institutionalized the closing of such lands in an attempt to retroactively sanction the unauthorized placement of barriers far from the houses at the edge of the settlements."
The human rights group found, through its investigations on the ground, that settlers pave patrol roads and place physical obstructions on Palestinian lands adjacent to settlements, at times with the authorities’ approval, at others not.
The group found that settlers also forcibly remove Palestinians, primarily farmers, from their lands. B'Tselem has documented cases of gunfire, threats of gunfire and killing, beatings, stone throwing, use of attack dogs, attempts to run over Palestinians, destruction of farming equipment and crops, theft of crops, killing and theft of livestock and animals used in farming, unauthorized demands to see identification cards, and theft of documents.
According to B'Tselem's report, the Israeli authorities entrusted with enforcing the law not only fail to take sufficient action to end the violence and prosecute lawbreakers, they join them and block Palestinian access themselves. Israeli soldiers also regularly expel Palestinians from their farmland, often under the direction of settlers. Israel has also established a physical system of barriers – barbed-wire fences, patrol roads, illumination and electronic sensory devices – far from the homes at the edge of the settlements, in effect annexing large swaths of land to the settlements.
B'Tselem was especially critical of the “Special Security Area” (SSA) plan, in which framework Israel surrounded 12 settlements east of the Separation Barrier with rings of land that are closed as a rule to Palestinian entry.
As a result of the plan, the overall area of these settlements is 2.4 times larger, having increased from 3,325 dunams to 7,793 dunams. More than half of this ring land is under private Palestinian ownership.
The amount of land attached to settlements other than through the SSA plan is much larger, given there are no official limitations and less supervision of the piratical closing of land by settlers.
B'Tselem estimates that such piratical closing has blocked Palestinian entry to tens of thousands of dunams, thus annexing them de facto to the settlements. Experience shows that this land grab will be perpetuated and become part of official policy to the extent that the plan is implemented at additional settlements.
The report points out the absolute illegality of Israeli settlement expansion, and notes the numerous violations of international humanitarian law.
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