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“There is a definite preference for allocating land to settlements while embittering Palestinian lives to the point where they will leave,” said Alon Cohen-Lifshitz, who scrutinizes Israeli land and housing plans for Area C for Bimkom, an Israeli non-governmental organization that promotes progressive planning policies. Cohen-Lifshitz terms this a “silent transfer” of Palestinians from Area C.
Israel denies any such intent, and neither Israeli authorities, nor the United Nations nor Bimkom could furnish data on Area C population trends of recent years. But Israeli measures appear to be intensifying of late that have the effect of restricting the growth of Area C’s Palestinian population. In addition to implementing orders designating sections of Area C as national parks, those measures include treating certain other areas as nature reserves, archaeological sites and army firing zones — all of which render structures built by Palestinians in these areas illegal.
Under the Oslo Accords, the open spaces of Area C were actually slated to be handed over to the P.A. But this commitment, like many others made by each side, went unmet amid the breakdown of the accords, for which each side blames the other.
In January, there was a spike in Israeli Area C demolitions, with 139 structures, 59 of them homes, destroyed in 20 separate incidents, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. That marked the highest number of demolitions in a single month in more than two years, according to OCHA.
Guy Inbar, a spokesman for Israeli military administrators, stressed that demolitions in Area C are carried out against illegal structures — not as a means of pressuring Palestinians to leave. He said that military authorities last year gained approval for some master plans in Area C and are working on others.
“Planning is done to make order in Area C, and soon we will see more and more plans that enable them to live legally with connection to water and electricity, and not in a pirate fashion as is the case today,” Inbar said.
But in Nabi Samwil, the army has rebuffed requests to expand the school beyond the 20-square-meter room where 12 pupils from grades one to four are crowded together to study. Even a request to bring in a prefabricated trailer for more space has been denied, according to Abu Arqoub.