Watchdog fears seizure of more land in West Bank

Palestinian protesters hurl stones at Israeli troops during clashes near the Jewish settlement of Qadomem, in the West Bank village of Kofr Qadom near Nablus on Thursday, November 17, 2017. (REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman)
Updated 18 November 2017
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Watchdog fears seizure of more land in West Bank

JERUSALEM: An Israeli settlement watchdog has denounced a legal opinion by the attorney general (AG), saying it could pave the way for the seizure of more Palestinian land in the West Bank.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit said in a legal opinion that Israel could, in certain circumstances, confiscate private Palestinian land for the benefit of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories.
Settlement watchdog Peace Now denounced the development in a statement.
“It appears that the AG is attempting to remove the last legal (and moral) barrier on the road to turn theft and expulsion into a formal way of establishing settlements in the occupied territories,” it said.
Peace Now and other observers said Mandelblit’s opinion, which was made public on Wednesday, breaks with former positions on the confiscation of private Palestinian land for state use.
Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the Six-Day War of 1967 in a move never recognized by the international community.
Its settlements are deemed illegal under international law and widely seen as the main obstacle to peace.
Mandelblit’s legal opinion is tied to Haresha, an “illegal outpost” west of the city of Ramallah, on the West Bank, said Peace Now.
It said the attorney general “seeks to approve the confiscation of private Palestinian lands in order to legalize an access road” to Haresha.
“Confiscating the land would constitute a severe violation of international humanitarian law and of the Palestinians’ right to own property.
“The AG’s legal opinion regarding the access road might lead to additional confiscations of private Palestinian lands,” and could “strengthen Israel’s hold over Palestinian territory,” said Peace Now.
Mandelblit issued his opinion after Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, a staunch supporter of settlements, urged him to reconsider an earlier legal opinion concerning the road leading to the Haresha outpost.
International law sees all Israel’s West Bank settlements as illegal, but Israel distinguishes between those it sanctions and those it does not.
More than 600,000 Jewish settlers live in the occupied West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem among 2.9 million Palestinians, with frequent outbreaks of violence.


Archaeologists find mosque from when Islam arrived in holy land

Updated 18 July 2019
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Archaeologists find mosque from when Islam arrived in holy land

  • Authorities estimate the mosquer dates back to the 7th to 8th centuries
  • Rare to find house of prayer so ancient whose congregation is likely to have been local farmers

RAHAT, Israel: Archaeologists in Israel have discovered the remains of one of the world’s oldest rural mosques, built around the time Islam arrived in the holy land, they said on Thursday.
The Israel Antiquities Authority estimates that the mosque, uncovered ahead of new construction in the Bedouin town of Rahat in the Negev desert, dates back to the 7th to 8th centuries.
There are large mosques known to be from that period in Jerusalem and in Makkah but it is rare to find a house of prayer so ancient whose congregation is likely to have been local farmers, the antiquities authority said.
Excavated at the site were the remains of an open-air mosque — a rectangular building, about the size of a single-car garage, with a prayer niche facing south toward Makkah.
“This is one of the earliest mosques known from the beginning of the arrival of Islam in Israel, after the Arab conquest of 636 C.E.,” said Gideon Avni of the antiquities authority.
“The discovery of the village and the mosque in its vicinity are a significant contribution to the study of the history of the country during this turbulent period.”