A new, unauthorized West Bank settlement outpost has been under construction in recent days near an Israel Defense Forces’ training area in the northern Jordan Valley.
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About two months ago, a group of Israelis built a hut in the Megamat Netzah area and then left. But according to residents of the area and members of the Jewish-Arab Ta’ayush organization, on the night between Wednesday and Thursday of last week, the Israelis returned, cleared land and began new construction activity.
A spokeswoman for the Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories confirmed that the construction was illegal and had been carried out without the authorities’ approval. “The [Israeli] Civil Administration will act to stop the work and, if necessary, tools will be confiscated,” she said.
This is the second unauthorized outpost that Israelis have begun building in the area in the past six weeks. The first outpost was built on privately owned land near the long-standing Givat Salit outpost, from where some of the buildings were relocated to a hilltop overlooking the site. The new site contains an animal pen, large wooden shed, water tank and water pipeline running down the hill.
Two weeks ago, the COGAT spokeswoman told Haaretz that stop-work orders were issued against the first outpost, in an area known as Khalet Hamed, adding that further steps would be taken if necessary “based on professional and operational considerations.” The settlers at the site have been stopping the Palestinian shepherds from accessing the hilltop in the area. The shepherds have used the hill for decades as a livestock-grazing site.
In late September, several days after the first outpost was established, the Civil Administration demolished the shepherds’ residential structures, including restroom facilities, water tanks and livestock pens, saying they were built without a permit.
Last Tuesday, the Israeli army carried out training exercises in the area and the shepherds were ordered to vacate the area as a result.
Two days later, members of the U.S. consulate staff in Jerusalem had been scheduled to visit the area, accompanied by women from the Machsom Watch group (which monitors the conduct of soldiers at checkpoints). A Civil Administration unit told them not to come, on the grounds that the visit had not been coordinated in advance, and it was claimed that military exercises were again scheduled there.
Members of Machsom Watch who visited the area in any event told Haaretz that no military exercises were taking place, and that the army presence in the vicinity was actually lighter than usual.