Activists, Palestinian residents claim construction was part of a broader attempt to deepen settlers’ hold in natural area.
By Zafrir Rinat | Sep. 2, 2014

The Civil Administration and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority have stopped illegal construction that began recently on a road that passes through a West Bank nature reserve. The construction was apparently an attempt to connect the outpost of Alonei Shiloh to various other thoroughfares.

Alonei Shiloh is located on the northern slope of the Kaneh stream, in one of the most important natural areas in the northern West Bank. Dror Etkes, a veteran researcher of settlements, and Aviv Tatarsky, a human rights activist who is in contact with Palestinian farmers from the villages of Deir Istiya and Jinsafut, recently discovered the road, which is a few kilometers long.

The Palestinian residents and Tatarsky recently filed a complaint with the INPA and the Civil Administration, demanding that the roadworks be stopped. Spokesmen for the authority and for the office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories confirmed that the work was indeed illegal. The two bodies took steps to stop it, including confiscating mechanical equipment at the site.

Tatarsky said he was concerned that the building of the road was part of a broader attempt to deepen the settlers’ hold on the area around the Kaneh stream, by implementing a master plan they have been working on for the past two years in cooperation with the INPA, the Environmental Protection Ministry and the Civil Administration.

“The intent is to turn the area of the stream into an integral part of the settlements by means of a new network of roads, by blocking the road now serving Palestinian farmers and visitors,” Tatarsky said. He added that the illegal construction was done along the route of one of the roads in the master plan under discussion.

During the past two years the Civil Administration has been uprooting Palestinian olive trees in the vicinity of the Kaneh stream, on the grounds that they constitute an expansion of cultivation beyond that which is currently allowed. For their part, the administration and the INPA claim that the orchards are damaging to the site’s natural surroundings.

With regard to the settlers’ master plan, the INPA said that it is still incomplete.