Jamil Al-Mutawer, vice chairman of the Environmental Quality Authority, said that Israel started unilateral exploration activities in a gas and oil well near the West Bank village of Rantees, to the west of Ramallah. He added that the Israeli security forces had beefed up presence in the area, preventing villagers from reaching their lands and farms to keep the exploration work a secret.
Al-Mutawer said the well is part of the Meged oilfield that is located alongside the wall that separates Israel from the West Bank. He added that 80 percent of the 10-km-long and 20-km-wide field is on lands owned by Palestinian residents.
Israel started the construction of the eight-meter-height cement wall in the West Bank in 2002. It said that the wall is to prevent armed Palestinians from infiltrating into Israel.
Al-Mutawer said the Israeli Givot Olam Oil Ltd company "started the exploration activities in the field in 2004 without consulting or coordinating with the PA." Al-Mutawer estimated that the field contains 1.5 billion barrels of oil and about 1.82 billion cubic meter of natural gas.
The Palestinian official said that the Israeli move is in violation of the Oslo Peace Accords. Under the Oslo Accords, signed between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1993, any exploration work for natural resources should be coordinated and mutual.
The "PA will take urgent procedures that may include suing Israel in international courts," the official said.
Givot Olam said that it discovered the Meged oilfield in 2004. The company said it produces 1,000 barrels every day and it is scheduled to develop the production by 2012.
Meanwhile, the European Union has decided to pursue a series of steps which may undermine Israel's control of Area C, according to a policy paper that was published by Hebrew daily Yediot Ahronot.
According to the document, "Area C and Palestinian state building," the EU will support road, water, infrastructure, municipal, educational and medical projects in the area, in order to "support the Palestinian people and help maintain their presence (in the area)." According to the Oslo Agreement, Area A is under Palestinian administrative and security control, Area B is under Palestinian administrative control but under Israeli security and Area C is under full Israeli control.