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Backed by their army, settlers bid for expansion in three locations

Aug. 7, 2009 12:25 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 10, 2009 12:57 P.M.)
Hebron – Ma’an – Israeli settlers launched a series of actions on Friday in a bid to take over more West Bank land from Palestinians.

In the city of Hebron settlers began planting Palestinian-owned land under military guard in an apparent takeover attempt. Settlers from the illegal Israeli colony of Kiryat Arba moved on to land belonging to Muhammad Mustafa Jaber, in the Al-Beqa’a area, outside of Hebron.

Jaber told Ma’an Israeli soldiers blocked his family from reaching the land. A similar incident took place last week when soldiers cordoned off his land to make way for the settlers’ activities.

In a separate incident dozens of Israeli military vehicles closed the village of Kfil Haris, north of the West Bank town of Salfit, Thursday as they escorted a group of settlers through the area, locals reported.

Shop owners were ordered to close, families out for evening strolls were told to return to their homes and all car traffic in the village was ground to a halt and drivers stranded at the village entrance as troops spread across the area.

Kfil Haris resident Karam Abu Hammad said troops ordered him to leave his car at the entrance of the city and proceed on backloads on foot. On his way home he was ordered off the streets by half a dozen other soldiers.

Israeli troops erected checkpoints throughout the village to ensure locals stayed indoors as a herd of settlers entered the area on busses to visit an area that villagers recognize as a holy shrine to the Prophet Zel Kefl, an ancient local religious figure. The area is surrounded by a village graveyard.

In years past settlers defaced the shrine and nearby tombs with anti-Arab slogans and spray paint, but Thursday night made a pilgrimage to worship at the area.

Meanwhile, in the town of Beit Sahour, outside of Bethlehem, Ma’an reporters observed settler activists converging on an abandoned Israeli military base they are seeking to transform into a settlement. Settler groups have been holding weekly events at the hilltop base, including religious services, lectures, and martial arts trainings, all under heavy military guard.

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