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B'Tselem: Israel annexing lands around West Bank settlements

Sept. 11, 2008 9:33 A.M. (Updated: Sept. 11, 2008 9:33 A.M.)
Bethelehem - Ma'an - Israeli authorities and settlers have de facto annexed "tens of thousands of dunams" of land to settlements located east of the separation wall in the West Bank, a new report by the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem says.

The report deals with the way settlements, through various means, block Palestinians' access to their land.

"Two modus operandi stand out," says the report, "1) settlers, and sometimes members of Israel's security forces, violently attack and harass Palestinians who venture near settlements; and 2) erecting fences and other physical and electronic devices around the lands, blocking Palestinian access to them. In many cases, the authorities turn a blind eye to unlicensed closure of lands, systemically avoiding their duty to enforce the law on criminal settlers."

Some 70,000 settlers live east of the Israeli separation barrier. The barrier is a 400-kilometer network of concrete walls, electric fenses, and watchtowers snaking through the West Bank. Hundreds of thousands more Israelis live in illegally-built settlements on the western side of the wall.

B'Tselem also highlights the use of military orders to seize land from Palestinians. By designating land around 12 specific settlements "Special Security Areas," Israel has fenced off 4,558 dunams (4 dunams = 1 acre) of Palestinian land, more than doubling the size of the land, and closing of lands that are largely privately owned by Palestinians.

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