Jewish settlers ignore building law

Jews are developing West Bank settlements on occupied Palestinian land, despite Israeli court rulings and hostile world opinion.

    There are about 450,000 settlers living on Palestinian land

    Peace Now, which monitors settlement building in the occupied

    territories

    , said on Monday existing settlements had been reinforced with new

    infrastructure such as paved roads, running water and

    electricity in the first four months of 2004.

    "As of this month, despite court rulings and evacuation

    orders there have not been any serious removals on the ground,"

    it said in a report based on its latest aerial survey of West Bank

    settlements.

    The international community regards the Israeli settlements

    as illegal, although Israel disputes this.

    Occupied land

    It is estimated there are about 450,000 Jewish settlers living on illegally occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

    An auditor's report released last week said Israel's Housing

    Ministry, run by a pro-settler coalition partner, had funnelled

    nearly $7 million into building "outposts" and supporting

    infrastructure from January 2000 to June 2003.

    Ariel Sharon is the architect of
    Israel's settlement programme 

    The US, Israel's main ally, has demanded some "outposts" should

     

    be torn down as part of a road

    map that promises Palestinians a state in the West Bank and

    Gaza.

    Peace Now's study said more than 50 permanent houses were

    being built, further caravans were sprouting up and roads being

    paved at a number of "outposts" in the West Bank.

    Court ruling

    It said 95 of the hilltop caravan clusters were inhabited

    and 61 of them built without government approval since

    right-wing Prime Minister Ariel Sharon took office in 2001.

    The Supreme Court in March dismissed petitions by settlers

    protesting against plans to evacuate them, setting the stage for

    government to do so.

    Twenty-one "outposts", most uninhabited, have been removed

    during Sharon's tenure, but he has not fulfilled his pledge

    to scrap them all, in part because of the

    powerful pro-settler nationalists in his coalition.

    The Housing Ministry is headed by Effi Eitam, leader of the

    far-right National Religious Party, which considers the West

    Bank and Gaza to be part of the biblical Jewish homeland.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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