An unprecedented increase in Israeli Settlements

settlement  settlements
(File photo: Jordan News)
An order was signed recently by the Israeli commander of the military’s Central Command, Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fox, delineating jurisdiction for a new settlement north of Al-Ubediya town, east of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank.اضافة اعلان

The first phase of the settlement will include 3,600 housing units on about 417 dunams for the religious-nationalist public, the  Israeli anti-settlement group Peace Now said.

“In the second phase, the settlement is intended to expand to an additional 2,000 dunams and another 10,000 housing units for the Ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) population,” it added in a statement.

Israeli authorities have already contracted planners and architects to prepare plans for the new settlement at a cost of approximately 2.7 million shekels ($751,000).

According to Peace Now, the new settlement is an implementation of an earlier government decision in February of last year to establish nine new settlements in the West Bank.

Earlier another order was signed by Maj. Gen. commander Yehuda that will allow an illegal outpost in the occupied West Bank to  become a vital , big urban settlement.

The MitzpehYehuda outpost, which covers 50 dunams of land, will become a city named Mishmar Yehuda covering an area of 417 dunams (104 acres).

Around 3,600 houses will be built in the settlement, which would eventually have the potential to host 13,000 settlers, according to Haaretz .

However, a controversial Israeli cabinet decision was adopted last year to 'legalize' nine West Bank outposts.

Besides, the orders follow the declaration by Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich on 22 February for the construction of over 3,300 new houses in the West Bank settlements in "response" to an attack by three Palestinian gunmen who killed an Israeli man at a checkpoint near the Ma'aleh Adumim settlement.

Smotrich announced that the Israeli government would submit plans for the construction of 2,350 housing units in Ma'aleh Adumim, 300 in Keidar, and 694 in Efrat. 

"Our enemies know that any harm to us will lead to more construction and more development and more of our hold all over the country," Smotrich wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

The Israeli NGO Peace Now has released a report recording an "unprecedented" increase in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank since October 7.

The report recorded nine "settlement outposts" and 18 new roads for settlers in only the first three months of the Israeli war on Gaza.

The NGO also reported that the ongoing war in Gaza  was being exploited by settlers to create a de facto situation on the ground, aiming to expand their control over larger parts of Area C - an area in the West Bank with a high concentration of settlements.

The population of Israeli settlers in the West Bank grew nearly 3% in 2023, according to a recent report by the pro-settler website based on population statistics from the Israeli government.

The report, released last February by the pro-settler group, found the settler population jumped to 517,407 as of December 31, from 502,991 a year earlier.

This year’s report predicted “accelerated growth” in the coming years and that the settler population in the West Bank will exceed 600,000 before 2030.

However, the report did not include population figures for East Jerusalem, where more than 200,000 Israelis live in neighborhoods that Israel considers to be part of its capital, but which the Palestinians and the international community views as illegal settlements.

On its part , the Israeli watchdog group Terrestrial Jerusalem said that since the start of the Israel-Gaza war on October 7, three plans were either approved or are about to be approved for Jewish housing in East Jerusalem.

Terrestrial Jerusalem called the speed of approval processes over the last few months “frenetic.”

The occupied West Bank, has seen a sharp rise in settler’s violent raids and incidents against Palestinians since October 7.

Settler violence is not an isolated incident but rather a part of an organized and financed strategy by the Israeli authorities to dispossess Palestinians of their lands in the Occupied Territories, and to undermine any potential political solution.

Currently, about three million Palestinians live in the West Bank, alongside 490,000 Israelis living in settlements that are deemed illegal under international law.

Since 7 October 2023 and as of 1 February 2024, OCHA has recorded 494 Israeli settler attacks against Palestinians, resulting in Palestinian casualties (49 incidents), damage to Palestinian-owned property (388 incidents), or both casualties and damage to property (57 incidents).

However , in 2023, 1,264 incidents involving Israeli settlers in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem resulted in Palestinian casualties, property damage or both. Some 945 of these incidents resulted in damage, 165 resulted in casualties and 154 resulted in both.

This is the highest number of settler attacks against Palestinians in any given year since OCHA started recording incidents involving settlers in 2006.

Repeated waves of violence by settlers, often backed by the army, have led to the displacement of 1,208 Palestinians, including 586 children, across 198 households.

Supported by the Israeli security forces , aided and abetted by the government, settler violence remains a central part of the Israeli state’s policy and plan to ethnically cleanse the occupied Palestinian territory in order to establish full sovereignty over it and enable settlement expansion .

Despite the clarity of international law on the illegality of the settlements, Israel has provided the political conditions and economic incentives, as well as infrastructural support, for the growth of more than 300 settlements in the West Bank.

Prominent human rights organization B’Tselem has described settler violence as a form of state violence, through which Israel can “have it both ways”. It can claim that this is violence carried out by private individuals – a few “bad apples” among the settlers – and deny the role of its own security forces, all while benefiting from its consequences – the expulsion of Palestinians from their land.

Under international law, Israel as the occupying power has the obligation to protect the Palestinian population. Nonetheless, settler violence takes place openly and in total disregard of the laws of war and human rights.

The fact that Israeli security forces have accompanied and protected settlers on their violent rampages clearly indicates they actively ignore legal responsibilities towards the occupied population.

Settler violence has been adopted by the Israeli state as a tool to accelerate the pace of Palestinian displacement. Once key portions of occupied Palestine are cleansed of the Indigenous Palestinian communities, then the settlement enterprise can proceed unabated and unopposed and annexation can also take place.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Karim Khan has confirmed that his office is accelerating investigations in relation to settler violence, stressing that “Israel has a fundamental responsibility as an occupying power” to investigate and prosecute these crimes and prevent their reoccurrence and ensure justice.

The international community must clearly and without hesitation ascribe settler violence to the Israeli state, and hold its officials to account in the appropriate international forums for not taking decisive action to prevent it, stop it, and reverse its effects.

Israel must not continue to have a free pass when it comes to violating the rights of Palestinian civilians living under its occupation.

Najla M. Shahwan is a Palestinian author, researcher, and freelance journalist. She has published thirteen books and a children's story collection. She also received two prizes from the Palestinian Union of Writers.

Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Jordan News' point of view.

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