Israel advancing plans to expand illegal settlement west of Salfit

Israeli authorities are advancing plans to expand an illegal settlement west of Salfit in the central occupied West Bank, to be built on tens of dunams of private Palestinian land, local sources said.

According to Palestinian researcher Khalid Maali, the Supreme Council for Planning and Building at the Israeli Civil Administration has put forward a new settlement scheme to expand a college in the illegal Israeli settlement of Elqana, to be constructed on the lands of the Palestinian village of Masha.

Maali said that Israeli bulldozers have recently leveled agricultural land in Masha for new settlement units in Elqana and the neighboring settlement of Shaare Tiqwa, noting that Israeli authorities did not notify landowners beforehand.

“Building a college in a settlement built on Palestinian land is a violation of international humanitarian law, which bans the building of facilities for the occupying power on occupied land. It also violates the Fourth Geneva Convention,” Maali noted.

A spokesperson for COGAT, the Israeli agency responsible for implementing Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian territory, told Ma’an in a statement on Sunday evening that “the educational technology college in Elqana has received approval from the (Israeli) Supreme Council for Planning and Building in the Civil Administration and exists in the towns outline plan.”

According to the Applied research Institute – Jerusalem, Israeli authorities confiscated 2,356 dunams of Masha’s land as of 2013, for the construction of Israeli settlements, checkpoints, outposts, and bypass roads, and the separation wall.

Some 31 percent of the total village area has been seized for the establishment of the four illegal Israeli settlements — Elqana, Ez Efrayim, Shaare Tiqwa, and Benot Orot Yisrael, which are all located on the west side of the village’s territory, within a zone that Israel seeks to include to its borders upon the completion of its illegal separation wall.

The reports came as the Israeli government has come under widespread international condemnation for approving the first illegal new settlement in the occupied West Bank in 20 years, declaring 977 dunams (241 acres) of Palestinian land as “state land” for the retroactive legalization of three illegal West Bank outposts, and advancing plans to build of up to 2,000 new settler units — in addition to the thousands of units that were approved earlier this year.