Israeli bulldozers leveled lands east of Nablus in the northern occupied West Bank on Saturday morning, reportedly in preparation for the construction of new illegal settlement units, according to local officials.
Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian official who monitors settlement activity in the northern West Bank told Ma'an that Israeli authorities escorted the bulldozers onto lands just a few kilometers south of the illegal Elon Moreh settlement.
According to Daghlas, Israeli authorities bulldozed Palestinian lands in the eastern part of the village of Deir al-Hatab with the intention of building new settlement units in the area.
A spokesperson for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), which is responsible for implementing the Israeli government's policies in the occupied West Bank, told Ma'an that two weeks ago, "an [Israeli] enforcement was taking place against illegally built structures" in the area, some which were "made out of tin."
"These were built again yesterday [Friday] and so an enforcement was taking place again [Saturday morning] against these illegal structures," the spokesperson said.
According to the Applied Research Institute - Jerusalem (ARIJ), Deir al-Hatab was divided into 'Area B' and 'Area C' after the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel signed the Oslo II Interim Agreement in 1995.
Approximately 4,783 dunums -- 42 percent of the village's total area -- were classified as Area B, where the Palestinian Authority (PA) controls civil matters and Israel retains control over "security."
The rest of the 58 percent of the village's area -- approximately 6,681 dunums -- was classified as Area C, where Israel retains full control over security and civil administration, making Palestinian building and land management "illegal" unless approved by the Israeli Civil Administration.
The majority of Deir al-Hatab's population resides in Area B, while most of the land lying within Area C is agricultural land or has been confiscated for Israeli settlements.
Israel has confiscated 659 dunums from the village for the establishment of the Elon Moreh settlement, which sits on the north-eastern side of the village, according to a 2014 report by ARIJ.
Since the establishment of the settlement in 1979, which at the time of the report had 1,595 residents, Palestinian residents and farmers of Deir al-Hatab have been subjected to various settler attacks, in addition to the settlers having also stolen crops, damaged trees and attacked animals, homes and other private property.
According to ARIJ, settlers from Elon Moreh have cut off the village's electricity supply by destroying the electricity infrastructure, and in 2009, settlers constructed a barbed wire fence around a water spring which served as one of the most important water sources in the village, despite an Israeli court ruling that stated the right of the Deir al-Hatab residents to the spring.
In addition to the hundreds of dunams of Deir al-Hatab's land confiscated for Elon Moreh's use, Israeli authorities have also confiscated 50 dunams of the village's land for an Israeli "industrial zone," 12 dunams for the establishment of an Israeli military base, and more unspecified amounts of land for the establishment of checkpoints around the village, and the settler bypass road No. 555, which links Elon Moreh settlement with the Huwwara checkpoint south of Nablus, and the Itamar settlement.
Land from the village was also seized by Israeli settlers who used the land to establish two illegal settlement outposts to the east of the village on the hills that surround Elon Moreh.
The aim of these outposts -- which stand in contravention with both Israeli and international law -- according to ARIJ, was to extend the Elon Moreh settlement "and in turn, control more Palestinian land."
As seen in the case of Deir al-Hatab, Israel rarely grants Palestinians permits to build in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, although the estimated 550,000 Jewish Israeli settlers are more easily given building permits and allowed to expand their homes and properties.
Nearly all Palestinian applications for building permits in Area C -- the more than 60 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli military control -- are denied by the Israeli authorities, forcing communities to build illegally.
Demolitions in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem have seen an unprecedented surge in recent months, as Israeli authorities demolished 780 Palestinian structures in Area C so far this year, in a large increase from 453 in all of 2015, according to UN documentation.
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