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Israel 'exploiting Jordan Valley resources'

May 12, 2011 9:49 A.M. (Updated: May 13, 2011 8:17 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israel has systematically exploited the resources of the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank, favoring settlers over Palestinians, an Israeli rights group said on Thursday.

A report by B'Tselem said Israel dominated the land, water resources and even tourist sites along the strip of land which runs along the eastern flank of the West Bank, in what appeared to be a prelude to a de facto annexation of territory.

"Israel has instituted a regime that massively exploits the resources of the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea, far more than elsewhere in the West Bank, demonstrating its intention: to de facto annex the area to the state of Israel," a B'Tselem statement said.

"Israel has taken over most of the water sources in the area, allocating almost all derived water to settlements," it said, charging that such actions violated international law, which prohibits the exploitation of natural resources within an occupied territory.

B'Tselem said the 9,400 Jewish settlers living there were able to develop intensive agriculture because they received water allocation equal to one third of the water accessible to the West Bank's 2.5 million Palestinian residents.

"Due to the water shortage, Palestinians have been forced to neglect farm land that used to be cultivated and switch to growing less profitable crops," it said.

It also accused Israel of taking control of 77.5 percent of land in the area, including major tourist attractions like the northern shores of the Dead Sea.

The Israeli rights group said it had submitted its findings to the justice ministry, which declined to comment.

The report was hailed by Dr Shadad Attili, head of the Palestinian Water Authority who said the disparity in water allocation was a clear example of the "systemic inequalities" taking place under Israel’s occupation.

"The Jordan Valley serves as a microcosm of what is going on across the occupied Palestinian territory when it comes to Israel’s systematic exploitation of Palestinian water resources in violation of international law," Attili said in a statement, accusing Israel of using water "as a weapon to target some of the most vulnerable" Palestinians.

"Restrictions imposed by Israel on the amount of water Palestinians can access are part of a deliberate policy designed to put additional pressure on struggling Palestinian communities to leave their land," he charged.

Israel captured the Jordan Valley, along with the rest of the West Bank, in the 1967 Six Day War. The Palestinians claim the entire area and the Gaza Strip for a future state.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has recently indicated that the Jewish state would demand to maintain troops in the Jordan Valley under any peace agreement with the Palestinians -- an idea Palestinians have completely rejected.

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