update deskIsrael-Palestinian Conflict

PA building resort complex in Gush Etzion nature reserve

Israeli authorities are not intervening to stop the land grab, the regional council says.

The Palestinian Authority is building a city in the HaMasrek nature reserve in the Judean Desert, May 19, 2024. Credit: Gush Etzion Regional Council.
The Palestinian Authority is building a city in the HaMasrek nature reserve in the Judean Desert, May 19, 2024. Credit: Gush Etzion Regional Council.

The Palestinian Authority is taking advantage of the Israel-Hamas war to continue building a new city in the “Agreements nature reserve” in the Judean Desert and eastern Gush Etzion.

In recent weeks, a new vacation resort complex was built in the reserve.

“This serious failure is a security threat to the State of Israel. Wake up!” said Yaron Rosenthal, head of the Gush Etzion Regional Council.

The city is being built at a fast pace in order to create facts on the ground and make enforcement more difficult, despite the explicit prohibition to build in that area under the Oslo Accords.

The move by the Palestinian Authority is taking place without any intervention by the Israeli enforcement agencies, authorities said.

Another step the city’s planners are taking is the construction of a B&B complex for Arab tourism. The project and the roads leading to it are being built. They are carrying this out to take advantage of the security forces’ shortage of manpower due to the war.

The nature reserve is located in the eastern part of Gush Etzion near Tekoa, Kfar Eldad and Nokdim. The construction is causing irreparable damage to the Judean Desert and is a serious security risk.

Beyond that, the city is already making it difficult to access the desert, which will worsen as construction continues. The city will isolate the eastern Gush Etzion communities, which will become an enclave between Arab cities and villages.

“While some of us have become aware of the ‘conceptzia‘ [faulty security paradigm assumptions] in Gaza, burying our hands in the sand when it comes to Judea and Samaria continues,” said Rosenthal.

“If we don’t stop the rampant illegal construction in the “Agreements nature reserve” today, in a few years, we will be dealing with a major security threat,” he added.

The reserve is in “Area B,” so the Civil Administration does not have authority to act in it without guidance from the political level, while Palestinian Authority police activity there requires security coordination with Israel. The result is lawlessness, allowing extensive destruction and damage to nature. 

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