[R-G] Jewish Settlements, Outposts Expanding

Tim Murphy info at cinox.demon.co.uk
Fri Jul 23 14:20:41 MDT 2004


.
Jewish Settlements, Outposts Expanding Despite Pledges

    Growth Most Striking in Gaza Strip, Report Says

By John Ward Anderson
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, July 23, 2004; Page A26

JERUSALEM, July 22 -- Jewish settlements and outposts are growing 
rapidly in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, despite Israeli pledges to the 
United States to stop the expansion of such communities and dismantle 
some of them, according to Israeli government statistics and a report 
released Thursday by settlement opponents.
aerial view of gaza settlement area
  The number of Jewish settlers at Netzarim in the
  central Gaza Strip, shown in an aerial photo in March,
  jumped nearly 11 percent this year, a new report says.
  Settlements have also expanded in the West Bank.
 (Ariel Schalit -- AP)

The growth is particularly pronounced in the Gaza Strip, where Israel's 
prime minister, Ariel Sharon, has proposed removing all Jewish settlers 
and the Israeli soldiers protecting them by the end of 2005. A little 
more than 8,000 settlers occupy approximately 40 percent of the land in 
the Gaza Strip; about 1.3 million Palestinians live on the remaining 60 
percent.

According to a new report by the anti-settlement group Peace Now, 
Israeli settlements and outposts grew by more than 100 acres -- with at 
least 65 acres added in the West Bank and about 47 in the much smaller 
Gaza Strip -- in March, April and May this year. At least 3,100 
apartments are being built in the settlements, "in addition to the 
preparation of areas for construction of thousands of further housing" 
units, the report says.

The study included more than 50 satellite photographs and other pictures 
showing construction work and expansion between February and July at 
settlements and at outposts, which are generally smaller than 
settlements and do not have the same government approval. 
Before-and-after satellite images show the clearing of land, the 
construction of roads and the addition of greenhouses, trailers and homes.

The pictures "show without a shadow of doubt how these illegal outposts 
were expanded and asphalt roads paved and new prefab houses brought in, 
and in some places real brick houses have started to be built," Ephraim 
Sneh, a member of parliament from the main opposition Labor Party, said 
in a recent interview. "It shows that the government not only isn't 
dismantling settlements, it's expanding them with government funds."

"There is no expansion of existing settlements," said Sharon spokesman 
Raanan Gissin, who added that Israel believed it was permitted to build 
within existing settlement boundaries. As for outposts, Gissin said: 
"Everything that is unauthorized and illegal will be removed once the 
legal proceedings are over. . . . We are going to continue with our 
relentless effort to take them down, but in a way that's without causing 
bloodshed."

The Peace Now report was meant to counter the "disinformation, 
half-truths and lies" being spread by the Israeli government about its 
efforts to dismantle outposts and contain settlements, according to Dror 
Etkes, the head of Peace Now's Settlement Watch Team. "People are 
building up settlements and outposts every day in broad daylight," he 
said. "There's no way the government doesn't know about it."

In adopting a U.S.-backed peace plan, known as the "road map," 14 months 
ago, Israel agreed to freeze "all settlement activity" and "immediately" 
dismantle settlement outposts that had been erected after March 2001. 
The Israeli government says 28 outposts fall into that category; Peace 
Now says the number is 51. An additional 45 outposts were built before 
March 2001, the organization claims.

Settlement growth has continued unchecked, and few outposts have been 
removed, Peace Now says. In the few instances in which an outpost was 
removed, a new one went up almost immediately somewhere else, according 
to Etkes, who said this was evidence of "a well-planned deal between the 
settlers and the Ministry of Defense."

While Israeli officials assert that numerous outposts have been 
dismantled, the government has not released a comprehensive list of 
their names and the dates they came down. At the same time, other 
outposts have grown so much that they are in the legal process of being 
converted to legitimate settlements.

Many religious Jews cite the Bible for their belief that the West Bank, 
which they call Judea and Samaria, was given to them by God and that 
they have a right -- some say an obligation -- to settle there and 
reclaim it. Some analysts say Jews are moving to Gaza to try to 
complicate Sharon's withdrawal plan.

New statistics from Israel's Interior Ministry show that the population 
has spiked in Gaza settlements slated for evacuation under Sharon's 
disengagement plan, which is on hold as he tries to build support in his 
cabinet and parliament.

The population of Netzarim -- a settlement just south of Gaza City that 
recently added seven mobile homes, according to the Peace Now satellite 
pictures -- grew by 43 (10.8 percent), to 442, during the past six 
months. The population of Kfar Darom, in central Gaza, rose 15.7 
percent, government statistics show.

In all, the settler population in the Gaza Strip rose about 4.3 percent 
during the past six months, from 7,820 in December to 8,153 in June. In 
Sa-Nur, one of the four isolated West Bank settlements that Sharon has 
targeted for evacuation, the population almost doubled in that period, 
climbing from 38 residents to 69, according to Israel's Interior 
Ministry. Peace Now aerial photographs show that the settlement recently 
added four new trailers.

/Researchers Ian Deitch and Hillary Claussen contributed to this report./

) 2004 The Washington Post Company

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