Unprecedented Settlement Expansion in Salfit

Kufr Dik and Bruqin – an update on the ongoing cycle of water shortages, settler sewage problems, and unprecedented settlement expansion.

This [Netanyahu’s] government has destroyed all hope of peace”, resident of Kufr Dik

The water issue

The two villages are made up of approximately 12,000 people, yet for many years Israel has only allowed 700 cubic meters of water per day for the two villages. There is no shortage of wells in the area. The entire Salfit region has very good water resources, but the water is under the control of the lsraelis who sell, at greatly inflated prices, the allocated water rations to the villages. We reported on the issue in Bruqin last April, but the situation has not improved. Not only has the water been stolen, and is resold, but 700 cubic meters is not by far enough for the villages’ needs and the situation is dire. In addition, sewage from the nearby industrial estate, illegally built at the Ariel settlement, runs down the valley and ruins the natural springs in the area.

Palestinian Villager Looks over the Ariel Industrial Zone, Barqan

Palestinian Villager Looks over the Ariel Industrial Zone, Barqan

Israeli policy of land theft

The Salfit area consists of 19 Palestinian villages, and 24 illegal settlements. Three of these settlements have been built after 2010 and since 2002 there has been a 400% increase the settlements. The speed with which the land is lost to the occupiers, and the extent of the areas lost points very clearly to a strategic approach to occupy the entire area.

Salfit is very close to 48 (Israel) and the expansion of settlements is moving eastwards.. The locals call it the “finger” aimed at dividing the West Bank in two. Smaller illegal settlements expand until they link up, and the finger is almost completed. Land is stolen not just to build houses and industrial estates, but land is also taken for infrastructure such as roads.

OCHA Map- Salfit Region 2015

OCHA Map- Salfit Region 2015

The fear, and expectation, is that eventually there will be uninterrupted access from Tel Aviv to the Jordan river for the occupiers. This will be made easier still with the train line that the Israeli government has agreed to build; running from Tel Aviv to Salfit and will encourage more illegal settlers. Not only does Salfit have a plethora of natural resources: such as three natural springs and the most olive trees in the West Bank, but the Ariel settlement has a university and a hospital for the benefit of the colonisers.

To further reduce access for Palestinians to their land, the settlers have introduced wild pigs in the area.

The wild pigs not only destroy crops, such as beans, but have attacked locals and entered the villages, creating fear. With crops ruined, the farmers do not see the point of going to the fields, but this may result in the Palestinians losing their land – as Israel confiscates any land that has not been used for a specific length of time. The pigs, considered unclean by Muslims, also destroy the fig trees and eat the figs. Locals therefore do not want to eat the remaining figs.

Land theft and an overview of illegal settlements in Kufr Dik

There are four settlements in Kufr Dik:

  • Alishav, which means “on top of the gold” started being built in 1982/83 and has approximately 500 houses and an industrial area.

  • Leshem, translated as “Holy Rock” only started being built in 2010, but is now bigger than those started long before. The settlement has about 700 houses and buildings. There are big apartment blocks built on Palestinian land. Therefore locals now cannot pick olives on their own land.

  • Buduel, with 400 houses, also started being built in 1982/83 and building continues to this day

  • Bruchin first appeared as a caravan for the army but now has around 2000 settler houses. Note the name similarity to the Palestinian village of Bruqin, Israel often appropriates place names from Palestinian villages.

In Kufr Dik, 80% of the land has been taken by Israel. This includes illegal settlements and settler roads, as well as areas designated as nature reserves and are taken for “security reasons”. The area spans over 7000 dunums but the villagers can only build on Area B land, which covers a mere 1200 dunums. The village has now built on all area B land and the only option is to build in area C. This however brings with it the threat of demolition orders and army incursions.

The boundaries of area C are also not very clear. An example of this is a local who had built a house, but the army appeared and stated it was now state land. However a house across the road is deemed ok, at least for now. Some old houses have been given papers that say half their house is area C and must be demolished! Even a room can be split in two, where the army claims that one half is in Area C. As of yet no such demolitions have been completed, but the threat remains.

In Bruqin, 100 houses have been served with demolition orders since 2006, out of the 250 houses that exist in area C. Nineteen demolitions have been carried out. Anyone with a demolition order will take it to the courts, but this is very expensive.

The Village of Kfer Dik

The Village of Kfer Dik

These issues are not new but they are ongoing, and the exacerbation of the situation is making life unbearable for the residents. Added to this is the very realistic fear that they are gradually being pushed off their land, replaced by illegal settlers.