On the morning of November 29, the sound of Israeli settlers' bulldozers working on the lands of al Ras area to the west of Salfit city in the north of the West Bank, an estimated area of 50 dunums surrounded by olive trees, woke up the Palestinian residents of Salfit from their sleep.
Deeb Nassif, one of the owners of the land in al-Ras where the bulldozers are working, told WAFA that his land accounts for an area of 30 dunums and it benefits at least 30 Palestinian families.
"The settlers took over the land, and put on it sheds for sheep. They put up electricity poles and prevented us from reaching our land and every time we try to reach it, they, protected by the army, attack us,” he said.
Ayed Murrar, head of the legal unit at the Wall and Settlement Resistance Commission, told WAFA that the claim of the Israeli occupation that this land is “state land” is false since the landowners have papers from the Ottoman period proving ownership of the land for centuries. Therefore, and according to the law, it is prohibited to seize that land for any reason. “The occupation nevertheless does not bother with the law and tries to find a legal loophole to keep the caravans set up by the settlers in their place,” he said.
The mayor of Salfit, Abdul Karim Zubeidi, told WAFA: “We were surprised by the presence of the bulldozers, supported by the occupation army, in this area without prior notifications or notices of takeover.” He described the area as strategic and central to the city of Salfit with great scenery that overlooks the Nablus, Ramallah and Qalqilya governorates.
“The takeover of this land will be among the most dangerous steps because it allows the Israeli occupation authorities to link Ariel settlement with the industrial settlements, forming one continuous block from Kafr Qassim (in Israel) until the beginning of the Jordan Valley, which means bisecting the West Bank in two,” he said.
Zubeidi indicated that there is fear of seizing thousands of dunums of land surrounding the area in order to link Ariel settlement to Barkan settlement, one of the largest industrial settlements built on expropriated West Bank lands, which means denying Salfit the chance to expand to the west, just as Ariel denied it the right to expand to the north.
“Settlers' bulldozers are still working in the area today, placing mobile homes in it while the occupation forces prevent Palestinians from accessing their lands,” said Zubeidi.
Recently, Salfit municipality started projects planting olive trees in the surrounding area, paving agricultural roads, and organizing activities and protests with the governorate institutions, which were met with repression and arrest by the occupation forces.