Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Bethlehem area village of Al-Walaja to challenge Israeli plan to annex land for checkpoint move

By Rhiannon F. - December 02, 2017
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [checkpoints] [Occupation] [Bethlehem]

Residents of al-Walaja in the Bethlehem district are to lose access to the Ein Al-Haniya spring as Israel plans to move the closest military checkpoint deeper into the West Bank.

A notice was issued on November 12 stating the Ein Yael checkpoint between Bethlehem and Jerusalem will be moved in order to make way for the 'Jerusalem metropolitan park.’

Residents of al-Walaja were given 15 days to challenge the order.

BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights Director, Nidal Alazza told Palestine Monitor the local council and the Palestinian Authority have commenced proceedings on behalf of the al-Walaja families.

“Khader al- A’raj, the Head of al-Walaja local council, in coordination with the Palestinian Authority Wall and Settlement Department submitted a petition to the Israeli Civil Administration (ICA),” Alazza said.

“According to Israeli military regulations/orders, such petition is required before proceeding in any judicial action.”

The residents, local council and PA now have to wait up to 60 days for a response from the ICA.

The checkpoint move will annex a further 1200 dunams (296 acres) of village land.

Consequently, owners will be prevented from accessing their current agricultural fields and main water source.

It is a repeated story for al-Walaja, as they lost three quarters of their land in the 1948 Nakba, forcing many people to live in refugee camps in Bethlehem.

The remaining residents are subject to restricted freedom of movement after the separation wall was built surrounding their village, ruled an illegal construction by the International Court of Justice in 2004.

Furthermore, al-Walaja has lost even more land due to the building of Israeli settlements Gilo, Har Gilo, and Givat Yael, also illegal under international law.

The Ein Al-Haniya spring is the second largest in the West Bank, as stated by Haaretz, and is used by al-Walaja residents for their livestock to bathe and drink as well as recreational use for the village.

The Israel Antiquities Authority and Jerusalem Development Authority are said to have already started work around the spring, soon to close it off with a fence to commence building a visitors centre and restaurant.

al-Walaja residents often frequent Ein Al-Haniya to picnic and swim, though with the opening of Jerusalem metropolitan park, they will be unable to access the spring without being granted Israeli visitor permits.

Human Rights groups such as B’Tselem have argued Israel undertakes the establishment of national parks in order to prevent any future building by Palestinians in the area.

The act of seizing Palestinian land is a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and a “grave breach” of the Fourth Geneva Convention, according to BADIL Research Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee rights.

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