Israel has started the construction of 164 settlement units in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, in a further breach of international law, it was announced on Friday, 30 April.
The construction of the new units in the Neve Daniel settlement had been announced in July. Since then, settler violence against Palestinians in the area has intensified, including a horrific attack by settlers on a car carrying a one-year-old child, Mahmoud Iyad Banat, last October. Settlers threw rocks at the car, smashing its windows, and harming the infant.
The news comes on the same day as another 60 settlement units were approved by Israeli occupation forces for the settlement of Ebi Hanahal, also in Bethlehem.
The growth of settlements is often dependent on Palestinians being forced from their land, either by “legal” means or through intimidation by settlers, who are often assisted by Israeli law-enforcement or ignored by them and allowed to carry out their actions.
Also on Friday, settlers south of the West Bank city of Nablus cut a water pipe to the town of Qaryout. Others attacked Palestinian shepherd Ibrahim Hamdounis, 66, who was severely injured, to the west of Jenin.
And these violations of Palestinian rights and international law came just a day after the occupation evicted Palestinian families from the village of Humsa Al-Fouqa in the occupied Jordan Valley. Israeli authorities have said the evictions were due to the land being required for military drills using live ammunition. It is the sixth time in six months that the village has been destroyed by the occupation.
Despite international condemnation, including by some of Israel’s allies, between 500,000 and 600,000 settlers live across occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
The recent wave of settlement expansions and attacks by settlers have, according to many Palestinian activists, been opportunistic attempts at seizing Palestinian land during the coronavirus pandemic and its associated restrictions.
As yet more settlements are built and planned, Israeli authorities have banned Palestinians from the West Bank from traveling to Jerusalem, following weeks of attacks by Israeli civilians and the authorities on people attending Al-Quds Mosque for Ramadan prayers.