By Suzanna Goussous – Aug 15,2018

AMMAN — Residents of Irbid’s Ibsar Abu Ali village on Wednesday said that the “expropriation” of lands for the 65-kilometre-long Israeli gas pipeline project is “illegal” and “unethical”, adding that the act “would only serve the interests of Israel”.

One of the residents, lawyer Bisher Khatib, said that land owners were told the lands would be utilised under the “Acquisition law”, without being asked permission to start the construction of the pipeline.

“The acquisition law allows any act as long as it serves the public interest, following the approval of Parliament. The legal procedures include documenting the approval of residents and land owners on paper, and paying compensation rates to the owners before the implementation of the project,” the lawyer told The Jordan Times, adding “in most cases, there are no written agreements between authorities and residents of the village. They also did not sign papers nor receive the compensation money. This is considered illegal; proving, once again, that it is not done for the public interest.”

“The information that the pipeline will start operating in 2019 was leaked to us. Authorities, never informed us,” he claimed, adding that residents believe the project is “immoral” and “suspicious” in terms of lack of information available and corruption claims raised by many.

For his part, activist Basel Burqan said that olive trees are being cut down on agricultural lands belonging to residents for the purpose of the project.

“Olive trees aged between 70 and 80 years old are being destroyed for Israel’s pipeline. To many families, these trees provide income,” he stressed, adding “the selling price of the land in villages that the pipeline passed through has witnessed a major drop, as it is dangerous to buy a land with a gas pipeline built beneath it.”

He argued that the project is “a purely political decision”, as Jordan would be relying on one source for its energy supply, saying “we tried it when we bought the Egyptian gas and it was a threat to our safety.”

Yaser Quraan, a village resident, said that there were several clashes between the pipeline engineers and local inhabitants.

“Not only would the gas pipeline encourage normalisation with Israel, but Ibsar Abu Ali is a forgotten Jordanian village. Authorities only started approaching us when the pipeline issue made an appearance. We’ve organised several protests in different villages in the north and got no response,” he noted.

The lands acquired for the pipeline are located in Irbid’s Ibsar Abu Ali, Al Taybeh, Kufr Assad, Al Husn, Deir Al Seaneh, Samma, Northern Shouna, as well as in villages in Ramtha and Mafraq.

Residents of the northern part of Jordan, where the pipeline is currently being constructed, were informed of the decision through an advertisement run in January in the Al Rai daily newspaper.

The ad, listed by the Department of Lands and Survey, stated that the Ministry of Energy and Mineral resources had already acquired the properties in Irbid, Ramtha and Mafraq, yet the advertisement did not specify how the land would be utilised.

The pipeline will pump energy to all areas of the Kingdom under the 15-year gas deal signed in September 2016 between Jordan’s National Electric Power Company and Noble Energy, a Houston-based company with the largest share in the Israeli Leviathan Gas Field.

According to officials, the deal would save Jordan around $600 million a year.