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The Illegal Jewish settlement of Ma’ale Adumim. (Photo: Davidmosberg, via Wikimedia Commons)

By Palestine Chronicle Staff  

“While many government bodies were shuttered or had limited operation following 7 October, the planning authorities continued to plough forward, advancing these plans at unprecedented speed.”

Planning documents show that the Israeli government has expedited the construction of settlements across East Jerusalem, with more than 20 projects having been approved or advanced since October 7, according to The Guardian.

The “largest and most contentious of the projects”, totaling thousands of housing units, are backed by “ministries and offices within the Israeli government”, the paper said, “sometimes in association with rightwing nationalist groups with a history of trying to evict Palestinians from their homes in parts of the city.”

“The fast-tracking of these plans has been unparalleled in the last six months,” Sari Kronish, from the Israeli human rights organization Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights is quoted as saying.

“While many government bodies were shuttered or had limited operation following 7 October, the planning authorities continued to plough forward, advancing these plans at unprecedented speed.”

Initiator and Applicant

Planning authorities have approved two new settlements since October 7, the report said, “the first to be approved in East Jerusalem in more than a decade.”

There’s also a gated settlement called Kidmat Zion, “in the heart” of the Palestinian neighborhood Ras al-Amud on the city’s eastern side, which is set to go ahead pending public comment, the Guardian said.

Two major projects are to be situated near the Palestinian community of Beit Safafa, “most of which is in East Jerusalem.”

According to the most recent official planning documents, the “initiator” and “applicant” for one of the projects, Givat Hamatos, “is the Israel Land Authority, a governmental body. The document lists stakeholders as the state of Israel and the Jerusalem municipality among others.”

A second housing project, Givat Shaked, will be built on the west side of Beit Safafa, “on a plot of grass and trees,” the paper said.

“The project’s ‘initiator’ is the Ministry of Justice, through an office known as the General Custodian, which claims responsibility for the land.”

Muslim-Majority Areas

The plan “involves high-rise blocks containing 700 housing units that occupy the only land in Beit Safafa where the 17,000-strong majority Muslim community could expand to accommodate young people.”

It received full approval on January 4 this year.

“Our family has been here for 250 years … Now I have a black hole in my heart because I can’t see how my children and grandchildren can spend their lives here,” Ahmed Salman, 71, the chair of Beit Safafa’s community council, is quoted as saying.

“We had good relations with the municipality once, but not in recent years. Since the war, life goes on but they approved the plan and dismissed all our objections. We are appealing but I’m not optimistic.”

A third project, also near Beit Safafa, involves the construction of a large settlement adjacent to a Palestinian neighborhood, the Guardian said and received full approval on December 29.

“The initiator and applicant of the project is the Israel Land Authority, documents show.”

‘Strategically Designed’

Amy Cohen, of Ir Amim, an Israeli human rights NGO based in Jerusalem, reportedly said that “Many of the settlement plans are strategically designated for areas along the southern perimeter of East Jerusalem.”

“If constructed, they would further fracture the Palestinian space … and create a ‘sealing-off’ effect of East Jerusalem from Bethlehem and the southern West Bank,” Cohen added. “Such moves directly undermine conditions necessary for a viable independent Palestinian state with a contiguous capital in East Jerusalem.”

Last month, the UN Human Rights Chief Volker Türk slammed Israel’s plans “to build a further 3,476 settler homes in Maale Adumim, Efrat and Kedar fly in the face of international law.”

Türk said, in a report to the Human Rights Council, that the establishment and continuing expansion of settlements amount to the transfer by Israel of its own civilian population into the territories that it occupies, which amounts to a war crime under international law.

‘Breach of International Law’

The size of existing Israeli settlements has expanded markedly, said the report, which covers the period from 1 November 2022 to 31 October 2023.

“About 24,300 housing units within existing Israeli settlements in the West Bank were advanced during this period, the highest on record since monitoring began in 2017. This included approximately 9,670 units in East Jerusalem.”

The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell in February also criticized Israel’s announcement to expand settlements in the occupied West Bank, saying it constitutes “a grave breach of international law.”

Violent settler attacks in the West Bank have displaced people from 20 communities and uprooted at least seven communities since October 7, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said, adding that the Israeli military either participated in those attacks or did not protect Palestinians from it.

“The announcement by Israeli Minister (Bezalel) Smotrich to build 3,300 new units in illegal West Bank settlements is inflammatory and dangerous,” Borrell said on X.

“Settlements make Israelis and Palestinians less safe, fuel tensions, obstruct peace efforts, and constitute a grave breach of international law.”

Estimates indicate about 700,000 Israeli settlers live in roughly 300 illegal settlements and outposts in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

(The Palestine Chronicle)

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