Bethlehem/PNN/ By: Madeeha Araj,
The National Bureau for defending land and resisting settlements stated in its latest weekly report , that the far-right Israeli Army Minister, Naftali Bennett announced last week the approval of seven nature reserves in the West Bank, with an area of 130,000-State donums of which 20,000-private ones belonging to Palestinians. Bennett’s announcement also includes approving the expansion of 12 existed and already approved nature reserves by the Civil Administration in 2008.
The announcement includes Wadi Al-Malha Reserve, 14,236 dunums, Wadi Tireza Reserve, 200 dunums, and Wadi Ogh Reserve 5700, all are private Palestinian lands.
Bennett claimed that his ministry continues to develop the Jewish settlement in Area C, “with actions, but not with words,” adding that in the Judea and Samaria area, there are picturesque natural sites to be expanded and new ones be established soon. In his announcement, Bennett called on the Civil Administration to transfer the new nature reserves’ responsibility to the Nature and Gardens’ Authority, so can be opened before the public. Actually, his announcement included a large number of sites, including the Surek Cave, also known as the High Halimat Cave or the Candles Cave, near Beit Sorek, Wadi al-Muqlaq, on the eastern slopes of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Wadi-Malha to the southern Jordan River, and Wadi Al-Far’a the gateway to the northern Jordan Valley.
Moreover, he also announced the expansion of 12 existing natural reserves, namely: mountain peaks located west of the Dead Sea, Fsayil & Um Zoka in the Jordan Valley, Ein al-Fashkhah adjacent to the Dead Sea, Kharouba village, east of Ramla and inside the West Bank, Wadi Silvadora north of the Dead Sea, Ghadir Mountain east of Tubas, Eioun Kana north of the Dead Sea, Wadi Al-Malha in the middle of the Jordan Valley, and Qumran in the Jericho area, which means placing a hand on large areas of Palestinian land classified as area C. According to B’Tselem’s data, Israel announced that about 20% of the Jordan Valley has become “natural reserves, and national parks.”
In general, there are 700 km2 in the West Bank that have been declared as natural reserves, besides, 78 km2 as forests, so that the % of those lands reaches 13.7% of the area of the West Bank i.e. 59 nature reserves, most of which are located in areas C according to the Oslo Agreement, but under the Israeli control, which is subject to be used for the benefit of settlement in the the northern Jordan Valley areas that Netanyahu is promoting for his plan to impose Israeli sovereignty on it if he wins the elections, the nature reserves in the Wadi Qana, Salfit, and other nature reserves in Bethlehem and Hebron Governorates. Knowing that the matter is not limited to nature reserves, but also military bases or State lands.
Within the context of settlement projects, the Israeli Occupation Authorities issued military orders to seize 350 dunums of agricultural land from Al-Khader and Artas villages, south of Bethlehem, specifically in the “Bakush, Dhahr Ein, Hammad, Al-Shagv, Zakandah, Ein Al-Qasis, Shushahla, and Rajm areas with the aim of expanding the bypass settlement road n. 60, which means rubbering more lands, and adding 150 meter recoil, preventing farmers from accessing their lands as well.
The Israeli Occupation Authorities seized 127 donums of land in Burqin and Kafr al-Dik, west of Salfit, under the pretext of State property. The Israeli occupation forces began implementing the second stage of establishing a new water-line on the lands of Qalqila Governorate, which extends from the 48 line to Nablus, to water settlements. This seven-kilometer project was announced in 2018, which means the destruction of more than 1000 olive trees and confiscation of one hundred donums of lands.
In Nablus, groups of settlers spread on a number of roads, especially the Hawara road, and the Yitzhar road, and in the Orif lands, disrupting study at Orif Secondary School. At the same time, settlers attacked residents’ houses in the Madama village with stones, and tried to enter their roofs, but people around the villagers came to help.
In Salfit, the occupation authorities announced earlier the expansion of the Bruakhin settlement through adding hundreds of new settlement units, which prompted the settlers there to bulldoze 127 dunums in the Thahr Subh area on the northern side of the Hajah town classified as a State lands located in areas B & C, although its owners possess documents that prove their ownership.