Israeli authorities are taking preparatory measures for the construction of an illegal settlement in the southern part of the occupied West Bank that would essentially split Palestinian territories in two.
Israeli rights group Peace Now, in a statement released on Monday, announced that Israeli officials notified the Israeli Supreme Court on August 10 that they had embarked on a land survey in Nahla Village near the city of Bethlehem with the purpose of annexing the area.
Peace Now added that the move would facilitate the establishment of the illegal settlement of Givat Eitam, noting that a road will link the region to the nearby Efrat settlement, located 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) south of Jerusalem al-Quds.
Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah denounced the measures as steps toward the further separation of Bethlehem from the rest of the southern West Bank and stonewalling the formation of an independent Palestinian state.
“Israel’s move to build a new illegal settlement and bypass road next to Bethlehem is another step into cutting the West Bank in two, and annexing Area C,” Hamdallah said.
The Area C of the West Bank is the largest division in the occupied territory as it comprises 60 percent of the land, and is under full Israeli military control.
Palestinians want the West Bank as part of their future independent state, with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital.
The presence and continued expansion of illegal Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine, however, have created a major obstacle to the establishment of such a state.
More than half a million Israelis live in over 230 settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.
The UN and most countries regard the Israeli settlements as illegal because the territories they are built on were captured by Israel in a war in 1967 and are hence subject to the Geneva Conventions, which forbid construction on occupied lands.
Nevertheless, the Israeli regime continues to build more settlements and expand existing ones.