Monday, July 20, 2009

Settlers Grow and Advance

By Mel Frykberg

"RAMALLAH, Jul 20 (IPS) - A little village nestled in a valley between several hills in the Bethlehem governorate is today fighting for survival.....

IPS accompanied Palestinian Authority (PA) agricultural ministry officials on a tour of Bethlehem and surrounding villages to assess first-hand the shrinking land available to Palestinians as settlement expansion in the West Bank accelerates.

"We are facing a disaster," says PA Agriculture Minister Dr Ismail Da'iq. "We are losing land at an unprecedented rate due to Israeli settlement expansion and its closed military zones.

"In order to combat this continual land theft we have launched a project which aims to plant five million trees on land in the Bethlehem governorate over the next five years," Da'iq told IPS. "We hope this will make it harder for Israel to expropriate our land [COMMENT: How stupid can you be, PA!], but this is not a guarantee."

Indeed, on way from Ramallah to Bethlehem this IPS correspondent saw several dozen Palestinian trees that had been sawed off just above ground level by the Israeli authorities......

According to a report last month from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), after four decades of Israeli occupation only 13 percent of the governorate, much of it fragmented, remains for Palestinian use.

"Today, there are approximately 86,000 Israelis living in 19 settlements in the Bethlehem governorate and in 16 settlement outposts," says the OCHA report. "The Palestinian population constitutes approximately 175,000."....."

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