Monday, February 13, 2012

Report: Israeli govt oks new settlement for Migron outpost

An Israeli settler clears the debris of a makeshift structure after Israeli security
forces demolished the building at the unauthorized outpost of Mitzpe Avihai on
Jan. 12. (Reuters/Ronen Zvulun)

TEL AVIV, Israel (Ma'an) -- Settlers from the illegal outpost of Migron said Monday that they had reached a deal with the Israeli government to relocate their homes inside the occupied West Bank.

Israel's High Court of Justice had ordered Israeli settlers in the Migron outpost near West Bank city Ramallah to leave by March 31 in response to a 2006 petition filed by seven Palestinian landowners and Israeli pressure group Peace Now.

According to the court's ruling of Aug. 2, 2011, the outpost is on privately-owned Palestinian land.

Settlers said Monday that they had struck a deal with the Israeli government to relocate Migron to a nearby hill which they say is an Israeli government owned site, Israeli daily Ynet reported.

All settlements built on occupied Palestinian land are illegal under international law.

The current outpost structures will not be demolished until all families have moved, with the agreement stipulating a 18 month timeline. The agreement must be signed by the Israeli government and the settlers before being presented to the Israeli high court, Ynet said.

But Peace Now director Yariv Oppenhemier said that the deal is in "in direct violation of the court order mandating Migron's eviction by the end of March," according to the Ynet report.

"Erecting a new isolated settlement, deep within the territories, which will cost millions, goes against Israeli interests and is meant only to appease a radical minority of settlers," he added.

Outposts are settlements built without official Israeli government blessing, typically after the mid-1990s. There are about 100 outposts to date, many of which were supported by the Israeli government.

Settlement expansion in the West Bank accelerated in 2011. There were 1,850 new "building starts" for housing units (excluding East Jerusalem), an almost 20 percent increase on 2010, says the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Various initiatives by the Israeli government in 2011 were aimed at "legalizing" unauthorized settlement outposts built on private Palestinian land, reports OCHA.

About 500,000 Israeli settlers live in occupied Palestinian land, according to UN estimates. Of these, between 4,000 and 5,000 settlers live in outposts, according to Peace Now.

IRIN contributed to this report

Maan News Agency