Israeli Settlers Set Up Outpost on UNESCO World Heritage Site

The West Bank outpost has prevented local Palestinians from accessing their lands

הגר שיזף
Hagar Shezaf
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The settler outpost built near the Palestinian village of Battir, West Bank, 2022.
The settler outpost built near the Palestinian village of Battir, West Bank, 2022.Credit: Emil Salman
הגר שיזף
Hagar Shezaf

Israeli settlers established a new outpost on a UNESCO World Heritage Site last week, near the Palestinian village of Battir.

The Palestinian owners of the land near the outpost said they have been barred from accessing their land since the outpost appeared. They said they have asked Israel's Civil Administration to remove it, and have also contacted UNESCO over the matter.

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Mohammad Abidallah, a member of the Battir village council, said the settlers brought to the site a truck which they live in, a prefab building and a sheep pen, which was removed on Monday night.

This is the fourth time settlers have tried to establish an outpost at the site, according to Abidallah. On one of the previous attempts they build a road leading to the outpost, which they expanded last week, he said.

Palestinian village of Battir in the West Bank, 2016.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

There are only a few people and farm animals on the site, a common model for new settler outposts. Although the outpost was declared state land in the 1980s, Palestinian residents of Battir claim that they own the land.

In 2014, UNESCO declared Battir a World Heritage Site, a decision made in an expedited process due to plans at the time to build a fence around the village. Though the plan to fence off the village was shelved in 2015, another outpost was built in the area in 2019.

The village is considered unique because of the traditional agricultural methods the inhabitants use, particularly the stone terraces typical of the scenery there.

UNESCO did not respond to Haaretz’s request for a comment on the establishment of the outpost, nor did the Civil Administration.

On Sunday, MK Mossi Raz of the Meretz party asked the Civil Administration to evacuate the outpost and was told that the matter is “known and would be dealt with.”

Peace Now, an NGO advocating for a two-state solution, asked Defense Minister Benny Gantz to have the outpost removed: “It is frightening to think that a handful of settlers would dictate to Israel its foreign and security policy by determining facts on the ground,” the organization wrote. Gantz's office has not yet replied to their query.

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