Haartez: Settlers Use West Bank Security Zones to Expropriate Palestinians’ Land

TEL AVIV, July 5, 2015 (WAFA) – An Investigation conducted by the Israeli daily Haartez revealed that, ‘most of the settlements which have taken over privately owned Palestinian lands in order to create security buffer zones have in fact been using the land for other purposes while the Civil Administration turns a blind eye.’

Haaretz discovered that under the pretext of the so called “security buffer zones” and in collaboration with the Civil Administration that turns a blind eye, the majority of the illegal Israeli settlements have confiscated private land that belongs to Palestinians, and are being used as land reserves or for agriculture.

It explained that, “In seven out of 12 settlements in which there are official security buffer zones, private lands were taken over. In two other settlements, state lands were breached.”

The investigative report revealed that in the illegal settlement of Karmei Tzur, north of Hebron, in particular, a strip of land was taken over in 2005 to allegedly protect the settlement from the north, but in fact, a basketball court was put up there.

Meanwhile in the illegal settlements of Ateret, north of Ramallah, Pnei Hever, east of Hebron, Nahliel, northwest of Ramallah, and Kiryat Arba, on the outskirts of Hebron city, buffer zone lands are being cultivated by Israeli settlers, while in Kiryat Arba, “prefabricated buildings” were set up in the security zone.

As for the illegal settlement of Mevo Dotan, to the west of Jenin, a road was built in the buffer zone to connect the settlement with a new outpost nearby, noted Haartez.

“Only in the settlements of Hermesh, [west of Jenin,] Shavei, [west of Nablus,] Shomron, [northwest of Nablus,] and Telem, [northwest of Hebron] are the security buffer zones being used for their original purpose,’ it revealed.

Dror Etkes, Researcher on settlement policies in the territories told Haaretz, “Experience shows that even in cases in which areas were initially closed out of security considerations, with time this became a de facto means of expanding the area under the control of the settlers.”

“This is another manifestation of the attitude of the state that treats Palestinian property as if it was ownerless,’ he added.

The report claimed that the buffer zones were created following the second intifada [uprising], between 2002 and 2004, when 31 Israeli settlers were killed in attacks in which the suspects gained access to the settlements.

It added that, “This prompted a search for electronic security mechanisms specific to each community to improve the fence and create a secure space between the settlement fence (if there was one) and the settlement’s first line of defense.”

B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, estimated the settler population in the West Bank at around 531,000.  It said, “In late 2012 the population of the West Bank settlements was 341,400; in late 2011 there were 190,423 individuals living in Israeli neighborhoods in East Jerusalem.”

Settlements are illegal under international law as they violate Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits the transfer of the occupying power’s civilian population into occupied territory.

“The existence of settlements leads to violations of many of the human rights of Palestinians, including the rights to property, equality, an adequate standard of living and freedom of movement. In addition, the radical changes Israel has made to the map of the West Bank preclude any real possibility of establishing an independent, viable Palestinian state as part of the fulfillment of the right to self-determination,” said B’Tselem.