Fri, Jun 20, 2008 - Page 6 News List

Angry Palestinians accuse Israel of more confiscations

LAND GRAB? Palestinian farmers in a West Bank town say that they were given notice that their land would be confiscated for an Israeli military base


The Israeli army ordered the confiscation of land in the northern West Bank to build a new military base, according to Palestinian residents who received notification of the move on Wednesday.

In an order distributed to 12 residents of the northern district of Tubas, Israel’s army commander for the West Bank said the military would take control of 37 hectares of land until the year 2012.

“Lands will be seized for military purposes to build a base,” the order read, according to the residents.

The military denied any new land would be confiscated.

Instead, the military said in a statement, “We renewed the contracts in order to give back to the owners land the army doesn’t need any more.”

Israel has said it would no longer confiscate West Bank land to expand Jewish settlements, but that does not apply to the military.

The new order added to Palestinian mistrust of Israel as it pursues peace talks with moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

While not extending the boundaries of the settlements, the Israelis are building new housing inside some of them, angering the Palestinians.

“Every procedure that confiscates lands or expands settlements ... adds to the doubt Palestinians feel about Israel’s intentions in reaching a peace deal,” said Jamal Zakkout, a Palestinian government spokesman.

The Israeli military confiscation order allows residents to demand compensation — a move few Palestinians undertake because they believe it signals approval.

There are already two military camps nearby, residents said. That means they are banned from entering much of the area.

“We people here live off the land and raise animals, we need our land,” resident Ibrahim Badawi said.

The 60-year-old farmer said he hadn’t been able to reach his fields in years because of checkpoints that dot the area, as well as surrounding military bases and settlements.

Sarit Michaeli of Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said that under international law, the army is permitted to seize lands for military purposes. But she said that in the past Israel had taken land for military purposes only to convert bases into Jewish settlements later.

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