At the agricultural lands and olive groves surrounding the southern part of the village of Rafat the Israeli occupation bulldozers continue to uproot lands belonging to Rafat village and other surrounding villages, depriving the residents of the village of their most fertile lands as well as their historical landmarks.
Just like the rest of the West Bank’s villages and towns, the village of Rafat to the West of Salfit suffers from the Israeli cancer of settlements which expands day after another, and quickly. The settlement has completely isolated the southern lands of the village of Rafat, after the then Israeli Minister of Housing and the Head of the Jewish Home Party Uri Ariel had initiated it in 2013.
Uprooting and Confiscation
Palestinian farmer Ahmed Ayash, whose face reflects the suffering caused by the Israeli settlements and settlers, said from his land located to the south of the village: “Bulldozers get closer to my land day by day. I might wake up to see bulldozers completely uprooting my land.”
He added, “Everyday we wake up to the sound of bulldozers uprooting our lands and collecting sand and stones to the south of the village, and no one could stop them as they enjoy the protection of the Israeli occupation army. They uproot lands without warnings and notification. The Israeli occupation state behaves as if it is above law.”
Ersan Shehadeh, the head of the local council of Rafat, asserts that the settlements of Leshem and Eli Zahaf exploits and consumes the lands of the villages of Rafat, Kufir al-Deek, Sarata and Dir Balout, in addition to confiscating historical landmarks, which are Roman structures and landmarks named Dir Samhan and known for its beauty.
For his part, Ghassan Daghlas, the head of the settlements file in the PLO, has asserted, “The governorate of Nablus suffers from the catastrophe of settlements and that Leshem is a newly built settlement next to Eli Zahaf settlement.”
PLO is Responsible
Palestinian MP Dr. Mustafa al-Barghouthi held the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) responsible for the acceleration of settlements’ construction “Because it didn’t request a total halt of settlements’ construction (When it signed the Oslo Accords) and chose to put off this issue, in addition to other issues, in what became known as the final status quo issues, which gave the Israeli occupation an opportunity to exploit peace talks and the best excuse to Judaize Jerusalem and tear apart Palestinian lands in the West Bank.”
Commenting on expanding the settlement of Leshem and other West Bank settlements, Israeli writer Dov Fasghlas wrote in Yediot Ahronot Newspaper, “Israel is expanding holes in the Palestinian piece of cheese,” and that scattered economic projects of settlements in the depth of Palestinian lands make reaching a political settlement impossible and make Israel’s talk about peace a joke.”
Dr. Khaled Ma’ali, a researcher, said the settlement of Leshem started with 170 housing units, including under-construction units, as part of a plan to build 700 housing units at the expense of farmers’ lands. The settlement now completely surrounds the Khirbat Samaan historical area.
Ma’ali noted that Leshem was initiated in 2013 next to Eli Zahaf settlement, which was founded in 1982, and its total area was 290 dunums until 2010, and it was built on the lands of Rafat, Dir Balout, and Kufur al-Deek and Sarta to the west of Salfit, and its population then was 424.
Ma’ali noted that Leshem, the Hebrew word for jewel, is one of 25 settlements that surround the governorate of Salfit. He concluded, “What the Israeli occupation is doing of daily uprooting of lands violates the international humanitarian law.”
(Source / 30.12.2016)