Settlers Set up More than 10 New ‘Outposts’
Despite Sharon’s Pledge in Aqaba, Settlers Set up More than 10 New ‘Outposts’
The council of Jewish settlers (Yesha) has set up more than 10 new “illegal” West Bank outposts since Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon promised US President George W. Bush and Palestinian PM Mahmoud Abbas to dismantle over one hundred similar outposts at the Aqaba summit meeting two weeks ago.
The Israeli officials label as “illegal” those settlements that were built without authorization by the Israeli government.
Sharon announced in the Jordanian city port of Aqaba that Israel has agreed to dismantle settlements built without government authorization as part of its obligations under the “roadmap” peace plan.
The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) Central Command Chief Moshe Kaplinsky handed settler leaders a list of 15 outposts to be dismantled, just over two weeks ago, council head Benzi Lieberman told Haaretz over the weekend.
Lieberman would not reveal the location of the new outposts, although he did name a few of the better known ones, including the one near the settlement of “Neve Tzuf”, north of Ramallah, which was taken down for the second time on Friday, Haaretz reported on Sunday.
In the last two weeks, Lieberman said the IOF had removed 10 uninhabited settlment outposts and one inhabited one – “Mitzpeh Yitzhar” in the Nablus area, which was torn down Thursday amid clashes between settlers and the IOF troops.
The Israeli Peace Now’s Settlement Watch group says seven new outposts have been erected during the last two weeks.
The outpost near the settlement of “Neve Tzuf”, which was taken down earlier last week, was reestablished on Thursday. It was dismantled for the second time Friday, when IOF soldiers and Israeli police evacuated some 50 settlers in buses.
Haaretz reported that settlers had set up seven tents at the site and placed a generator and water tank there. Oded Stern, an Israeli settler living in Neve Tzuf, said he and his fellow settlers would return to rebuild the outpost as long as the IOF continued to pull down outposts elsewhere in the West Bank.
Peace Now, which monitors settlement activity on occupied Palestinian territory, estimates that 60 outposts were established without Israeli government permission since PM Sharon took office in March 2001, about half of them uninhabited.
More than 200,000 Israelis live in some 150 “government-authorized” settlements among over three million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The vast majority of the settlers are in the West Bank, with 7,000 in the Gaza Strip, Peace Now estimates.
However Peace Now does not take into account a similar number of illegal Jewish settlers in occupied east Jerusalem (over 200,000).
The settlers, most of them are armed by the Israeli military and protected by the IOF, live illegally on land occupied by Israel in 1967. Palestinians want to establish a state in these areas. Most of the international community regards the settlements as illegitimate and illegal.
The US-backed peace “roadmap”, a phased plan that would lead to a Palestinian state by 2005, calls for outposts built since March 2001 to be dismantled and for a freeze on construction inside established settlements.
Israeli polls show a majority of Israelis willing to give them up in a final peace settlement, Reuters reported.