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Israeli forces escort settlers into Area A village

April 26, 2016 2:16 P.M. (Updated: April 27, 2016 2:08 P.M.)
HEBRON (Ma’an) -- Israeli settlers were escorted by armed military forces into the Palestinian village of al-Karmil in the southern occupied West Bank district of Yatta on Tuesday to visit a local park in direct violation of peace agreements, locals said.

The head of Yatta's city council, Mousa Makhamrah, told Ma’an that dozens of Israelis arrived from nearby illegal settlements to perform religious rituals at an ancient pool in the area.

Al-Karmil’s park is located under full Palestinian jurisdiction in Area A, and Makhamrah warned that Israeli entrance into the area marked a grave breach of Palestinian sovereignty.

The council head added that Israelis have frequented the park several times in past years, and called on Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah to support the municipality in maintaining the park for Palestinian use.

The park -- restored by the Palestinian municipality in 2011 -- is typically visited by settlers during the Passover holiday, often by way of the Susiya Tour and Study Center which describes the pool as the historical site of the Biblical settlement of Carmel, according to rights group B'Tselem.

Such visits are generally approved by and coordinated with Israeli authorities.

Last year, Israeli soldiers expelled Palestinians from the pool in order to allow settlers to swim and have exclusive use of the park.

Around 3,000 Israeli settlers live in Jewish-only settlements in the Yatta region, whose illegal presence comes at the expense of Palestinian residents' ability to build homes and infrastructure, or live unimpeded by constant and often violent interruption from Israeli forces and settlers.

Israeli military incursions into Area A of the occupied West Bank came into the spotlight over the past month after Palestinian and Israeli officials held discussions regarding agreements to halt near-daily raids on Palestinian cities.

The talks were eventually dropped after the Palestinian leadership refused conditional handovers of control of different areas, which Israel was already obligated to transfer to the PA nearly a decade ago.
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