Palestinians have warned of Israel's massive settlement expansion plans in the occupied East al-Quds, saying they represent "the most dangerous invasion" in the holy city in decades.
One plan envisions building 3,000 settler units with a view to adding another 6,000 eventually, at the site of the abandoned Atarot airport between the Palestinian neighborhood of Kafr Aqab and the Qalandiya refugee camp.
"The decision of the Israeli occupiers to build the largest settlement on the land of Qalandiya airport in the north of al-Quds is the most dangerous invasion of the Holy Land in recent decades and a major and obvious violation by targeting the Palestinian presence in occupied al-Quds which is done with the aim of Judaizing and demographically changing the city," Hamas spokesman Abdul-Latif al-Qanou said in a statement on Thursday.
He called on various Palestinian resistance factions to stand up against the scheme with all available means, and urged the Palestinian Authority to end all forms of security coordination with the Israeli regime.
“Our people in the city of al-Quds will remain steadfast in the face of the Israeli regime in order to force it into ending its crimes and settlement expansion policies. The resistance front offers firm guarantee to deter the occupying regime, compel it to draw back and extract concessions out of it,” Qanou highlighted.
He said that the recent retaliatory operation carried out by Hamas member Sheikh Fadi Abu Shkhaydam in al-Quds confirms the Palestinians’ ability to confront Israel's occupation and acts of aggression, and their steely determination to thwart the regime’s settlement construction plans.
Plans to build 17,000 settler units in al-Quds
Earlier on Thursday, Palestinian Minister of al-Quds Affairs Fadi al-Hadami said Israeli authorities are working to build more than 17,000 settlement units in different parts of the holy city, lambasting the plan as a “crazy tsunami”.
“The Israeli regime is progressing toward implementing a series of major settlement projects in the north, south and east of the city, with the aim of isolating it completely from its Palestinian surroundings in the West Bank,” he said.
The Palestinian minister said the projects include a plan to build some 10,000 housing units on the land of the defunct Atarot airport in Qalandiya.
Israeli authorities also plan to construct 3,500 settler units within the E1 area of East al-Quds, 1,250 units within the Givat Hamatos settlement, 2,000 in the French Hill settlement and 470 in the Pisgat Zeev settlement, he added.
“Since the beginning of this year, more than 140 buildings have been demolished in al-Quds,” Hadmi said, calling on the international community to “transform its words into actions, and work to stop the settlement, annexation, demolition, displacement and forced eviction of the population".
On Thursday, contradictory reports emerged about the Atarot settlement plan. Israeli anti-settlement group Peace Now said authorities had apparently put the plan on hold under alleged pressure from the US, at least for now.
Hagit Ofran of the rights group said a district planning committee meeting at which the project was expected to be approved had been cancelled, meaning “the plan is off the table for now.”
Deputy mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, however, said she was not aware of any move to shelve the project.
Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinian state with East al-Quds as its capital.
Israel, which captured the territory in 1967 and later annexed it in a move not recognized by the international community, calls al-Quds its indivisible capital.
More than 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East al-Quds.
The UN Security Council has condemned Israel’s settlement activities in the occupied territories in several resolutions.