The Governor of Bethlehem, Major General Jibrin al-Bakri, has warned of the danger of the Israeli occupation authorities taking over all the lands of the Bethlehem governorate in favor of establishing new settlements and expanding them.
In an interview with Palestine News Net Work PNN & WAFA News Agency reporters, al-Bakri said that the settlement project is targeting Bethlehem from many directions.
“In the western region of Bethlehem, there is a presence of a series of outposts for the Gush Etzion settlement. Most of the lands in that area are targeted as military zones, and lands have been expropriated,” Al-Bakri said.
“In the southern region, the settlement extends from the area of ”Beit El Baraka” near the camp of Arroub north of Hebron, which was recently seized. Settlers are present there as a way to put hands on the land and imposing it on the ground.
Al-Bakri added that Efrat settlement as well is extended to almost reach the entrances of Irtas village, south of Bethlehem.
The eastern region, which includes the villages of Teqoua, Zaatara, Beit Taamar, Shawawra and Obeidiyya, is highly targeted by settlements through permanent expansion, where construction is being carried out.
At the north-western area of Bethlehem, Israel is continuing to build and complete the annexation wall, where thousands of dunums have been seized, especially in the areas of Cremisan and Makhrur valleys in Beit Jala, and Al Walaja village and the surrounding area of Bilal ibn Rabah mosque. At the land extension of these villages is located “Abu Ghneim” settlement.
Al-Bakri pointed out that 85% of the Bethlehem Governorate territory is targeted by the occupation. This is 3% increase of recent studies.
The Bethlehem governorate has the width of (6007) km, which makes (11.7%) of the total land of the West Bank. It is divided into areas (a) (7.5%) of the governorate, and (b) (5,6%) of the governorate.
Israeli occupation contrils over 86,9% of the governorate, 22% of it is natural reserve.
He explained that there are about 180,000 settlers living in dozens of settlements and outposts built on the land of Palestinian citizens, who are prevent or attacked if they try to enter their lands located near the settlements.
The Palestinian citizens are also deprived from building on their own lands, and are also prevented from reclamating a large part of the lands, especially by the so-called “settlement security.”
He added: “In the face of this settlement attack, multiple bodies are following up on the issue. This includes the Wall and Settlement Resistance Committee, appointed lawyers, as well as the follow-up by the municipal, village and specialized councils which service in 44 geographical locations. In addition, the Land Research Center (LRC) organization offers legal intervention, guides citizens and raises awareness and prevent any Israeli attempts to seize more land.
The second dimension has to do with strengthening the steadfastness of the citizens in their land through the Palestinian government and local community institutions. In addition, there are vrious activities, including construction of agricultural roads, reclamation of land, and restoration of old houses.
Based on a meeting by the PA in the tourist cultural site of Solomon pools, Al-Bakri said that a committee will be formed to specify the needs of the area surrounding the pools in Al-Khader village, in addition to Irtas village and surrounding areas, since the settlements are on the villages’ outskirt.
The committee will work on rehabilitating the area to be a bright destination, stressing that the project will be under implementation soon for the purpose of preventing the settlement expansion.
The third dimension would be contacting international bodies to expose the occupation practices of land expropriation, through intensified visits to consulates and representations in Palestine, specifically in the targeted areas, to inform them of the reality of the settlement expansion.
Al-Bakri stressed that this settlement expansion and land expropriation is intended to disrupt all attempts and find political solutions in the region and to undermine the vision of a two-state solution.