Israeli bulldozers assault West Bank villages

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A Palestinian man holds a copy of the Quran as he walks past the rubble of a mosque that was demolished by Israel soldiers in the West Bank village of al-Mafqara on 04 December 2012. (Photo: AFP - Hazem Bader)

Published Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Israel on Tuesday destroyed a mosque in the south Hebron hills, bulldozed a two-story home in East Jerusalem, demolished agricultural infrastructure southeast of Nablus, and settlers uprooted and stole about 200 olive trees in a village west of Bethlehem, witnesses said.

Witnesses told Ma’an news agency that the army prevented residents from collecting books and other items from the al-Mafqara mosque, east of the town of Yatta, before razing it for the second time since 2011.

Local activist Rateb al-Jabour told the Wafa news agency that Israeli soldiers forced worshippers out of the mosque at dawn to clear the land for the expansion of two illegal Jewish settlements, Avijal and Mao’n.

Israel has routinely destroyed Palestinian homes and property in the West Bank throughout the 45-year occupation, but the policy appears to have been exacerbated since its announcement on Friday to expand settlements by 3,000 homes.

The illegal plans are regarded as a response to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ successful bid to upgrade the status of Palestine at the United Nations to non-member observer state. Israel had warned Palestinians of punitive actions for going to the UN.

Israel on Sunday said it was withholding $120 million in Palestinian funds, several days after the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly voted to upgrade the status.

Nations have rebuked Israel over its decision to expand the settlements, with Australia, the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Sweden and Denmark summoning their Israeli ambassadors over the news. Germany and Russia have also urged Israel to reconsider its plans, and the United States offered a rare, albeit mild, criticism of the land grab, calling it “unhelpful.”

In occupied East Jerusalem, employees from an Israeli municipality bulldozed a two-story home in the neighborhood of Jabal Zeitoun that belonged to Mohammed Abu al-Hawa. Israel said it demolished the house for being built without a permit, Wafa cited local sources as saying.

In the village of Khirbet al-Taweel, southeast of Nablus, Israel’s military surrounded a plot of agricultural land and began destroying structures, presumably to expand illegal settlements in the area, the Palestinian news agency added.

And about 200 Palestinian olive trees were uprooted by Jewish settlers as soldiers stood by in the village of al-Jabaa, west of Bethlehem. An official from village said that the land belongs to Ibrahim Hamdan, and that settlers used a bulldozer to uproot and steal the trees, claiming the land as their own.

Israel has destroyed about 2.5 million olive trees in the West Bank since 1967, costing Palestinian farmers about $55 million in losses per year, according to a 2011 study by the PA Ministry of National Economy.



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