Israel Tightens Control over Area B – Annexation of West Bank Begins

New illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank. (Photo: Trocaire, via Wikimedia Commons)

By Fayha Shalash – Ramallah

Israeli authorities are moving forward with their annexation plans in the occupied West Bank, in blatant violation of international law. 

In its latest action towards annexation, the Israeli government has decided to restrict or prevent Palestinian construction in the so-called Area B, a region that is subject, at least in theory, to joint sovereignty between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.

Despite claims that the decision is motivated by ‘security’ reasons, Palestinians believe that Israel merely aims at annexing more lands, expanding their scope of action even beyond the territories classified as Area C – which are subject to Israeli sovereignty and constitute nearly 60 percent of the total size of the West Bank.

Practically, this means that Palestinians are no longer allowed to build without Israeli restrictions in both Areas B and C. 

This only leaves them with the option of building in Area A, which falls under PA control. The area, however, is very small – 18 percent of the West Bank – and is barely sufficient for a tenth of the total population.

In addition to the illegal settlements and outposts, Israel confiscated security, administrative, and civil powers from the Palestinian Authority in Areas A, B, and C. With the latest decisions, it now practically controls more than 80 percent of the West Bank.

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From a Large House to a Room 

Tamer Abu Aisha lives in Hebron – Al-Khalil. A few days ago, over 20 masked members of the Israeli army stormed his house, ordering him to evacuate immediately, without even allowing him to pack his belongings.

Within minutes, the house, which was located in Area B, was demolished, despite it being licensed by the Hebron Municipality and the so-called Israeli Civil Administration.

Tamer’s brother, Nader, told the Palestine Chronicle that the Israeli military pretext was that the house constituted a ‘threat to the security of the state of Israel’, without further clarification.

The building was demolished along with all its furniture and contents.

The house, which was built in 2013, was inhabited by Tamer’s family, which consists of eight people, including six children. They were never notified of the demolition until a few weeks ago.

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“My brother and his family now live in one rented room after they used to live in a two-story house that cost them their entire life savings,” Nader said.

While arguing with the Israeli officer, Nader was told that Israel also controls certain areas within Area A, which is supposedly PA-controlled, where it prevents construction under the same pretext, that of security. 

“Israel’s goal is to uproot all of us from our lands. After confiscating the land and stealing it from us, they will displace its residents,” he asserted.

Disaster in the Making

In areas classified as B, illegal Jewish settlers, escorted by the Israeli army, regularly carry out incursions into archaeological areas under the pretext that they are religious sites. 

Due to their strategic locations, however, Palestinians believe that the actual goal is to control vital areas and turn them into illegal settlement outposts.

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Experts in settlement affairs have confirmed that there are settlement groups specialized in monitoring Palestinian construction in Area C and construction near settlements in Area B. They say that these groups are paid by the Israeli government.

Since the forming of the current right-far-right government of Benjamin Netanyahu, in December 2022, illegal and often violent seizures of Palestinian lands and settlement expansion have escalated.

Suhail Khaliliyah, Director of the Settlement Monitoring Unit at the Areej Center for Applied Research, told us that Israel’s decision can lead to dangerous consequences. 

“True, the decision does not mean that all construction in Area B will be restricted, but it is a dangerous move because it further deprives Palestinians of using their lands to build in areas close to (the illegal) settlements,” he explained.

According to Khaliliyah, large swathes of territory surrounding the illegal settlements will be confiscated. 

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“The extremist Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich is now responsible for the civil administration, so he did not hesitate in making such a decision,” Khaliliyah explained.

Indeed, the government is advancing its annexation plans to meet demands issued by Jewish settler groups, whose primary aim is to control all the areas surrounding the settlements, the Israeli military camps, and the Apartheid wall.

(The Palestine Chronicle)

– Fayha’ Shalash is a Ramallah-based Palestinian journalist. She graduated from Birzeit University in 2008 and she has been working as a reporter and broadcaster ever since. Her articles appeared in several online publications. She contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.

(The Palestine Chronicle is a registered 501(c)3 organization, thus, all donations are tax deductible.)
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