Photo: Flickr/The Advocacy Project
Israeli settlers have taken over at least 30 springs across the West Bank and made them inaccessible to Palestinians, according to a U.N. report and reported by AFP. The report, produced by the U.N.’s Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), identified a total of 56 springs (out of 530 in the West Bank) that were under partial or total control of Israel settlers in 2011.
Most of the springs— which the report says are “the single largest water source for irrigation and a significant source for watering livestock”— are in part of the West Bank known as Area C that is under full Israeli civil and military control.
The report states that most of the springs are located on private Palestinian land and that Israeli settlers have used intimidation to deter Palestinians while also undertaking about 40 projects to turn springs into tourist attractions by constructing pools, picnic areas and signs carrying a Hebrew name for the spring, according to the report.
OCHA said the takeover of springs was an extension of settlement activity in the West Bank, which it pointed out is illegal under international law.
And it added that settler actions including “trespass, intimidation and physical assault, stealing of private property, and construction without a building permit,” are also violations of Israeli law.
“Yet, the Israel authorities have systematically failed to enforce the law on those responsible for these acts and to provide Palestinians with any effective remedy,” it said.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ), the highest U.N. legal body for disputes, consider the settlements illegal.
Palestinian argues that the settlements are subverting their efforts for statehood. Israel, citing historical and Biblical links to the West Bank, argues that the settlements should be decided in peace negotiations.
The OCHA report called on Israel to stop expanding settlements, restore Palestinian access to the water springs taken over by settlers and conduct effective investigations into cases of settler violence and trespassing.
The Israeli Civil Administration responded to the report in writing, as reported by the Israeli news service Haaretz:
“Any building activity in Area C [under Israeli control], including the restoration of sites, including springs, necessitates building permits. In contradiction to the report, we have recently conducted enforcement activities against such illegal construction at springs near Elon Moreh and Har Brakha. Everyone has the right to approach springs in public areas. If access to any individual is being denied by any person, that individual should submit a complaint to the police.”
About 500,000 Israelis and 2.5 million Palestinians live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
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