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Israel to turn Jordan Valley nature reserve into settlement, says official

Palestinian protesters fall back amid clashes with Israeli security forces following a demonstration against settlements in the village of Beita in the occupied West Bank, Jan. 7, 2022. (Photo by AFP)

Israeli authorities have started turning a farmland and a nature reserve area into a new settlement in the occupied Jordan Valley, the latest in the regime's land theft policies despite international outcry.

Mutaz Bisharat, a local Palestinian official who monitors Israel’s settlement expansion, said settlers on Thursday began to set up tents and sheds in the Bayyoud area, 400 meters east of Ein al-Hilweh community in the northern Jordan Valley.

The placement of such structures on this tract of land, which was declared as a nature reserve few years ago, is a prelude to building a new settlement in the area, he added.

Separately, Israeli authorities dismantled and razed an agricultural structure in Jordan Valley’s Kardala village northeast of Tubas, the Palestinian media reported

Mohammad Qabaha, a local resident, confirmed that Israeli forces forced their way into the village and seized a 600-square-meter structure, which served as a vegetable packaging facility.

Israeli authorities usually demolish Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank, claiming that the structures have been built without permits, which are nearly impossible to obtain. They also sometimes order Palestinian owners to demolish their own homes or pay the demolition costs to the municipality if they do not.

In the fertile Jordan Valley, which makes up some 30 percent of the occupied West Bank, Palestinian residents outnumber Israeli settlers to a great extent. However, the Tel Aviv regime considers the region crucial to its security and has pledged to annex it.

Since 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank, it has sent thousands of settlers to the Jordan Valley. Some of the settlements in which they live were built almost entirely on private Palestinian land.

Back in March 2019, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) said in a report that Israel had occupied more than 85 percent or 27,000 square kilometers of historical territories of Palestine in an expropriation process.

According to the report, Palestinians now live on and own only 15 percent of their ancestral land.

The Palestinians living in the Jordan Valley regularly face evacuations due to Israeli military exercises in the region. Much of the Jordan Valley is fully controlled by the Israeli military.

More than 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 illegal settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East al-Quds.

Emboldened by an all-out unconditional support by the United States, Israel has stepped up its settlement construction activities in recent years.

The development comes as the Israeli regime is pushing plans for further illegal annexation of Palestinian territories, which have been met with far-and-wide regional and international objection.

All Israeli settlements are illegal under international law. The UN Security Council has condemned Israel’s settlement activities in the occupied territories in several resolutions.

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