Late last week a few Israelis and a large herd of cows settled into an abandoned military base in the northern part of the Jordan Valley, according to Sami Tsadeq, head of the village of Al Aqabah, which lies just west of the abandoned base. He told Haaretz he believes these people are part of one family. They arrived on Wednesday, and on Thursday they built a fence to keep in their herd.
Activists of the Machsom Watch NGO toured the area on Saturday and met a couple who were camping there in their tent. They said they had come to help the settlers. Two dogs were on guard.
Tsadeq said that since their arrival, the newcomers had on several occasions flown drones over their flocks of sheep, which usually roam the area. The shepherds were scared and returned the flocks to their pens. So far the cows have not been let out to graze. The base, abandoned four years ago, used to be manned by an ultra-Orthodox army unit and is located near the Tayasir checkpoint.
Tsadeq informed attorney Netta Amar-Shiff that on Thursday he reported the outpost to the Palestinian Civilian Affairs Committee and that the (Israeli) District Coordination and Liaison (DCL) Office had promised that the Israelis would be evacuated forthwith. On Saturday night the office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) said they knew nothing about the outpost and that this would be investigated on Sunday.
A protest rally of Palestinians and Israelis on Sunday morning was dispersed with tear gas, fired by soldiers. Tsadeq told attorney Amar-Shiff that he was informed that the DCL had told the Palestinian committee that it would work to dislodge the Israeli settlers, but that no date had been set for removing them.
Over the last 18 months two other unauthorized outposts have been established in the area, east of the Tayasir checkpoint. The method was the same – the arrival of one family with a large herd, assisted by Israeli youths and others. One outpost with a large flock of sheep was set up at al-Heima, as an extension of the outpost of Givat Sal’it, which is in the process of being authorized retroactively.
Another outpost was set up in the nature reserve of Umm Zuka, close to a military base. That one has a large herd of cows. Although the Civil Administration has confirmed several times that these outposts are unauthorized and that stop-work orders had been issued, construction there continues unhindered.
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The outpost in Umm Zuka receives its water from the adjacent army base. Monitoring of these outposts over the last few months by Haaretz showed that residents of these outposts prevent Palestinians from grazing their herds in the area, which they’ve been using for decades. It is feared that this will also take place in the third outpost, affecting mainly the residents of al-Aqabah.
A smaller outpost was established in the northern part of the Jordan Valley in 2016, near the settlement of Maskiot. Yet another outpost was built in 2008-9 east of the settlement of Rotem, but this one is usually unoccupied.
A COGAT spokesman has responded by saying they have received calls from Palestinians in recent days about the people who moved into the abandoned base. This is under investigation and will be handled based on their findings, he said. Regarding the illegal construction at the other outposts, COGAT is aware of this and the issue is being taken care of, with stop-work orders issued. Enforcement will be carried out there based on priorities, according to the spokesman.
No response was forthcoming from the IDF spokesman.