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4 Jan, 2017

Deir Ballout: A village struggling against Israeli settlement expansion

By Ula Mawkidi

DEIR BALLOUT, SALFIT, January 2, 2017 (WAFA) – Israel has recently been intensifying its violations of Palestinian rights through expansion of settlements, land grab and restriction on construction of regular and farm roads in the villages of Kufr al-Deek, Deir Ballout and al-Zawiyah, located to the west of Salfit in the north of the West Bank.

Deir Ballout, a village bordering the 1948 green line, is the most vulnerable of the area to this settlement expansion that has grabbed what was left of the village land.

Residents daily watch Israeli bulldozers razing land only meters away from homes at the entrance to the village. An Israeli military watch tower sits in the area to monitor what residents do and to make life miserable for them.

On December 20, the so-called Israeli “Civil Administration,” the arm of the military government in the occupied territories, ordered Idris Jbara Abdullah, 62, to vacate his land and reverse what he has done to it under the pretext it was “state land.” He was given 30 days to file an objection to the decision.

Abdullah told WAFA that his land, which he planted with olive seedlings with the help of the Ministry of Agriculture, is 82 dunums in area and is legally registered in the Land Registry since his grandparents were alive. He said that his sons and grandsons live off the land but the occupation “doesn’t want to leave us a tree.”

He adds that the confiscation issue covers 12 dunums of his land and it will be carried out in a month in case he does not stand against the Israeli forces and their bulldozers, which hadn’t stopped working on the land. He also called on all institutions to help him and to stand by him to regain his land.

Jihan Mansour, field researcher at the Jerusalem Center for Legal Aid, said that it has been two years since the land owners in the village Deir Ballout won an Israeli military court decision that stated their right to ownership of all that land considered private property where olive trees were planted. However, following an appeal to the court decision he was ordered to vacate his land in order to confiscate it.

According to statistics, Israel seized more than a thousand dunums of Deir Ballout lands for the advantage of the surrounding settlements, while the lands isolated behind the apartheid wall make a total of 8,000 dunums and they are productive, agricultural lands whose owners are not allowed to access.

The village struggles to expand its urban areas because Israel threatens to demolish the new residences and give them stop work orders. The Israel forces stopped 15 houses from being built on the eastern side of the village. They claimed those buildings do not fit in their zoning plan, where five houses were licensed in the 1980s and the rest were built recently. They also sent a warning to stop building of al-Salam mosque.

In 2013, the Israeli forces carried out sweeping operations near civilian houses on a vast agricultural land that belonged to Deir Ballout, Kufr al Deek and Rafat in order to build a settlement outpost called “Lesham,” an extension of “Eli Zahav” settlement. Many dunums were swept and hundreds of trees were uprooted.

In May 2016, “Ha’aretz” revealed that the Israeli settlement unit proceeded to legalize the recognition of the settlement outpost “Lesham” as a new and official settlement.

Through the expansion and confiscation, Israel seeks that to make these settlements as an extension to link its territory with the settlements of Burkan, Ariel, Brochan, and Tiffuh, as well as the occupied lands of the West Bank.