AMMAN: Palestinian religious leaders have called on Israel to allow the Latin Catholic Church to reclaim lands confiscated by Israel in the Jordan Valley.
Hanna Issa, secretary-general of the Islamic-Christian Commission in Support of Jerusalem and the Holy Sites, told Arab News that the turning of church-owned property to a military compound is a “violation of the laws of war.”
The commission said 267 dunums of land in the villages of Bardala and Tayseer in the Jordan Valley, being used for military purposes, are totally owned by the church. Catholic officials in Jerusalem and Amman were unavailable for comment.
Pope Francis welcomed Israeli President Reuven Rivlin to the Vatican on Nov. 15. They discussed the creation of conditions conducive to resuming Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, as well as the status of Jerusalem.
Issa said the issue of land confiscations, especially in the Jordan Valley, looms larger after Israel’s Parliament passed a law that gives Jews special status over non-Jews.
“These violations are part of a larger Israeli effort to Judaize all lands that belong to Arab Christians and Muslims,” he added.
Churches have been embroiled in a major confrontation with Israel over attempts to force them to pay taxes.
This led to the closure for three days of Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre in February until Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to solve the problem.