Settlers break freeze with 20 mobile homes 25Sep10 September 26, 2010

Ma’an News Agency -  25 September 2010

At least 20 caravans were installed on a hilltop outside the Revava settlement in the northern West Bank district of Salfit on Saturday, a day ahead of an anticipated end to the Israeli moratorium on settlement construction.

Head of the local council of Deir Istiya said settlers he believed were from Revava installed the mobile homes on a hill between his village and the nearby village of Haris overnight.

The structures, he said, had taken over dozens of dunums of agricultural lands in the Wadi Abu Ali area, a valley west of Deir Istiya on land owned by the families of Mansour Othman and Ahmad Ash Sheikh Abdul-Haqq.

The official said that platforms for the homes had been constructed using heavy equipment which continued to operate in the area.

A Civil Administration representative could not be reached for comment by phone regarding any action planned by Israeli forces to maintain the ban on settlement construction, while an Israeli military spokeswoman said she was unaware of any new settlement activity, adding that no settler activities for the Sukkot holiday had been coordinated with the military in advance.

According to Israeli group Peace Now, the Revava settlement witnessed the largest rate of growth during the partial moratorium period.

North of Salfit, in the Elon Moreh settlement east of Nablus, Palestinian official Ghassan Doughlas, who holds the settlements file for the PA in the northern district, said settlers had installed three caravan homes in the area.

In New York on Wednesday, US President Barack Obama called on the Israeli government to extend a 10-month partial freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank. The call was followed by a second from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and echoed in the UN General Assembly speech of Jordan’s King Abdullah II.

According to Acting Assistant Secretary for the US State Department of Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, on Friday there was “a pretty intensive negotiation going on right now with the Israelis and Palestinians,” on the settlement issue. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also met with President Mahmoud Abbas in the wake of the meetings.

“We know that time is short, this is an important issue,” the spokesman said, but declined to give details on the progress of talks.

Palestinian negotiators have made clear that they will walk away from talks if settlement construction begins.

“I will say this once in front of you, if they want negotiations, then they will continue with settlement freeze otherwise the negotiations will stop, and we are sorry to waste the opportunity,” Abbas told assembled Palestinian-Americans in New York on Thursday.

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