Israel drilling into West Bank for oil
Shares in Givot Olam, an Israeli oil exploration company, rallied on reports that it had located much larger oil reserves at its Meged 5 site than previously estimated.
The company, which says it has already sold $40mln worth of oil since the Meged field went operational in 2011, now believes that the well is sitting on exploitable reserves of as much as 3.53bln barrels - about a seventh of Qatar's proven oil reserves.
According to Palestinian officials, Israel has moved the course of its concrete and steel separation wall - claiming security - to provide Givot Olam with unfettered access to the site, between the Israeli town of Rosh Haayin and the Palestinian village of Rantis, Northwest of Ramallah, Al-Alam reported.
Dror Etkes, an Israeli researcher who tracks Israeli activities in the West Bank, said the Meged site was "a few dozen meters" inside the Green Line.
But what seems clear is that the oil field extends over a very large area, with much of the reserves believed to lie under Palestinian territory in the West Bank.
According to the Oslo accords, Israel is obligated to coordinate any exploration for natural resources in shared territory with the Palestinian Authority (PA), and reach agreements on how to divide the benefits.
Ashraf Khatib, an official at the PA's negotiations support unit, said the Meged oilfield was part of Israel's general "theft of Palestinian national resources".
"The problem for us is that the occupation is not just about settlements and land confiscation. Israel is also massively profiting from exploiting our resources. There's lots of money in it for Israel, which is why the occupation has become so prolonged," he said.
Last year, when Meged 5's reserves were believed to be 1.5bln barrels - less than half the current estimates - Jamil al-Mutaur, deputy chairman of the Palestinian Environmental Quality Authority, threatened to sue Israel in the international courts for its unilateral operations at Meged.
Gidon Bromberg, director of environmental group Friends of the Earth Middle-East, said his group would submit questions to the Israeli regime about Meged 5.
"If there are reserves of oil under the occupied territories, then absolutely Israel must talk to the Palestinian Authority about any exploration being undertaken to extract them," he said.
The expectation of a dramatic increase in future profits for Israel from drilling at Meged 5 comes shortly after the World Bank issued a report arguing that Israel was destroying any hope that a future Palestinian state could be economically viable.