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Israel levels private land in village south of Bethlehem

March 10, 2015 8:09 P.M. (Updated: March 13, 2015 7:11 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli authorities resumed work on Tuesday to level private Palestinian land near the village of Kisan southeast of Bethlehem that began on Sunday, landowners and local authorities said.

Witnesses said that Israeli troops and settlers escorted bulldozers to the land and prevented landowners from accessing the area.

Kisan's mayor, Hussein Ghazal, told Ma'an that the work took place on 70 dunams (18 acres) of land belonging to Kisan's Ubayyat family and others from the nearby Hebron-district village of Sair.

One of the affected landowners, Ayyub Ubayyat, told Ma'an that the Israeli authorities declared the area state property in 2004 under the Israeli absentee property law.

He said he filed a complaint against the decision in Israeli courts the same year, and submitted an objection to the current work with the Israeli Civil Administration, but neither action brought about a change.

Khalid Qaddura, the director of Bethlehem's District Civil Liaison office, confirmed that the Israeli authorities had notified his office of their plan to establish an industrial zone of 600 dunams (150 acres) on the land.

Qaddura said the plan would effectively isolate Kisan from neighboring Palestinian communities, leaving it surrounded by Israeli settlements and the industrial zone.

Under the terms of the Oslo agreement, 0.1 percent of Kisan's land is classified as Area B, while the remaining 99.9 percent is classified as either Area C or a Nature Reserve.

Large areas of Kisan's land have been confiscated by the Israeli authorities for the construction of Maale Amos and Mizpe Shalem settlements, as well as the settlement outpost Eibi Hankhal.

To the west of Mizpe Shalem, an Israeli military base has also been established.

According to the Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem, completion of the separation wall to the south will make as much as 65.5 percent of Kisan's land inaccessible to Palestinians.
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