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Report: Settlers continue building new illegal outpost despite stop-work orders

Oct. 23, 2016 5:35 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 25, 2016 3:17 P.M.)
A bulldozer is seen next to a new housing construction site in the Israeli settlement of Har Homa in East Jerusalem on March 19, 2014. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli, File)
TUBAS (Ma’an) -- Israeli authorities ordered settlers to stop construction on a new illegal outpost in the Jordan valley district of Tubas in the northern occupied West Bank, according to Israeli authorities.

Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the body responsible for implementing Israeli government policies in the occupied West Bank, told Ma’an on Sunday that the “illegal construction” began at the end of September, and that COGAT issued "stop-work orders” to the settlers in the area.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Sunday that their reporters visited the site of the outpost -- which was established on privately owned Palestinian land, in close proximity to the illegal outpost of Givat Salit -- and that construction was still ongoing, despite the stop-work orders that were issued, and COGAT’s claim that construction was halted.

In its statement to Ma’an, COGAT reiterated its assertion that construction had stopped, saying that “further inspection of the illegal construction found that the construction halted only after the orders were issued.”

“Enforcement measures will continue and will be carried out in accordance with professional and operational considerations,” the statement said, adding that “immediately after” the current Jewish holidays, “there will be another inspection by the Inspection Unit and enforcement proceedings will be taken accordingly.”

According to Haaretz, settlers from the outpost -- one of whom reportedly had a gun -- began threatening Palestinian shepherds in the area, preventing them from bringing their flocks to graze on a nearby hilltop, which is designated by Israel as “state-owned land."

Additionally, Israeli Civil Administration staff reportedly demolished the tent encampment belonging to the Ayoub family, a Palestinian family of shepherds who had lived on the land for years, shortly after the outpost was established.

Haaretz also reported that an Israeli jeep belonging to a resident of the nearby illegal settlement of Shadmot Mehola was seen on Thursday speeding into a flock of livestock owned by the Ayoub family, leading the family to fear that settlers from the outpost would physically harm their livestock.

Since the outpost was established almost one month ago, according to Haaretz, the settlers at the site have laid down a main water pipe, pounded iron fencing into the ground “for what appeared to be a future livestock pen,” constructed various iron posts, and installed a water tank.

The more than 232 Israeli settler outposts in the West Bank are considered illegal by the Israeli government. However, Israeli authorities often legalize the outposts retroactively by declaring them official settlements after they have been connected to Israel’s water and electricity infrastructure.

Each of the some 196 Israeli government-approved settlements scattered across the occupied West Bank are also considered illegal under international law.

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