'Neither side shall take any step that will change the status of the West Bank
and the Gaza Strip', Article XXXI, Oslo II, 1995.
While the world's attention is abstracted by Israel's withdrawal from Gaza Strip, Israel reveals the actual plan behind Gaza disengagement by strengthening its occupation in the West Bank from constructing the Segregation Wall to expansions in the illegal Israeli settlements, land confiscation and to house demolition.
Har Homa (Abu Ghneim) settlement north of Bethlehem city is one of the vital examples of the settlement expansions in the Palestinian Territory. Abu Ghneim Mountain has been privately owned by Palestinian families from the cities of Beit Sahour, Bethlehem, as well as from the villages of Sur Baher and Um Tuba. The mountain of Abu Ghneim was considered as one of the biggest forests in Palestine and its closeness to Jerusalem city gave it such importance so that Israel decided in 1967 to carve it out of Bethlehem Governorate, and annex the area to the illegal Israeli declared Jerusalem Municipal boundaries. Abu Ghneim Mountain, also contains some important sites to Christians, including Byzantine & Georgian monasteries with St. Theodore's well. Click here to See pictures of Abu Ghneim
Since 1968, these large areas of land between Bethlehem and Jerusalem had been classified as green areas, prohibiting all development activities by the rightful owners. In the year 1991, Israel confiscated the mountain to build the settlement, the only main reason for doing so, is to confiscate as much as possible of the Palestinian lands at favor of settling new Jewish settlers. The Israeli plans for Har Homa (Abu Ghneim) settlement is to construct thousands of housing units with roads, schools, shops, hotels and industrial zones.
New expansions in Har Homa (Abu Ghneim) settlement
Despite the international condemnation of the expansions of the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem, Israel continues its colonial plans by constructing and expanding settlements, erecting new military bypass roads, checkpoints and constructing the Segregation Wall. On August 27, 2005, the Israeli Land Authority and the Israeli Ministry of Housing and construction announced the approval of marketing 9 pieces of lands to construct 500 new housing units in the settlement of Har Homa. It is worth mentioning that there are 2500 existing housing units in the settlement and the Ministry of housing and construction is willing to issue tenders in the coming years to construct another 4000 new units. This will not only limit the Palestinian existence in the governorate but also will prevent the expansion of the nearby Palestinian communities and will also connect the settlement of Har Homa with the neighboring Gilo settlement.
Analysis performed by the Geographic Information System (GIS) unit at the Applied Research Institute-Jerusalem (ARIJ) indicated the spatial expansion of Har Homa settlement especially from the western, southern and southeastern sections. During 2005 there has been an increase in the settlement by intensifying the built up area and by creating external new rings around the settlement which are few kilometers away from the previous ring. The buildings constructed are around 9 floors high. Furthermore, the master plan set by the Israeli Jerusalem municipality (Master plan Jerusalem 2000) indicates the presence of two new settlements in the vicinity of Har Homa to its east and west. These new settlements will have an approximate area of 1080 dunums. See Map 1
The master plan also indicates that the residential area of Har Homa is planned to reach 1410 dumoms that is an increase by 350% than its size today which is 400 dunums. Har Homa and the new settlements are planned to comprise of 2500 dunums of land. See Satellite images of Har Hma (Abu Ghneim) Settlement. Photo 1 , Photo 2 & Photo 3
In August 23, 2005, the Israeli Prime minister Ariel Sharon declared in an interview with the Jerusalem post newspaper that: 'There will be building in the settlement blocs' which means that the Israeli Prime Minister plans to expand not only the settlement of Har Homa but also the other Israeli settlements in the West Bank and around Jerusalem. See pictures of expansions of Har Homa Settlements throughout the years of 1999 and 2005.
The International Legal Status of the Israeli settlements
The expansion of the Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal and contradicts with the international laws, Geneva convention and many United Nations Security Council resolutions such as the Resolution 452 which 'calls upon the Government and people of Israel to cease, on an urgent basis, the establishment, construction and planning of settlements in the Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem.' Whereby the Forth Geneva Convention which also states in Article 49 that 'The occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own population into the territories it occupies.' The Forth Geneva Convention in Article 174 also prohibits the 'extensive destruction and appropriation of property not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly.'