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Settlers using government transition to step up construction 

By Amos Harel
30 March 2009    Haaretz

Construction activity on West Bank settlements has increased in the transition period between the February general election and the formation of the new government, Haaretz has learned.

One notable example is the extensive earthworks being carried out in preparation for the construction of a road connect the settlement of Eli, north of Ramallah, with the Hayovel outpost Yuval, just south of the Arab city.

The earthworks are being carried out on private land owned by residents of the Palestinian village of Qaryut. The mayor, Abd al-Latif Lavum, plans to submit a petition today to the High Court of Justice demanding the issuing of a stop order to the Civil Administration to halt the work.
In fact, the Civil Administration, a government body that governs civilian aspects of daily life in the West Bank, has itself already issued an order to stop the work but it has not been enforced.

Dror Etkes, Lands Project Coordinator for the nonprofit organization Yesh Din, which is facilitating the High Court petition, said that the organization's records show the Eli-Hayovel road to be the largest such roadwork project related to the illegal outposts since since the publication of the Sasson Report on activity in the outposts in 2005.

Etkes, who has been monitoring Jewish construction in the West Bank for years, said that the construction began in Eli about two weeks ago. A dirt road was built between the two communities in 2003, but further development of the road was halted.

Etkes said that dozens of trucks brought gravel and earth over the past two weeks for the foundation of the 1,400-meter-long road. The cost of the project is estimated at a few million shekels. More than 90 percent of the road's course passes through privately owned Palestinian lands.

"While public attention was focused on the fighting in Gaza and the election campaign, we have been seeing a renewed effort on the part of settlers in outposts to increase construction," Etkes said.

He said this renewed effort put an end to a period of relative inactivity that he ascribed to criticism from the United States of construction in the territories combined with tighter enforcement by Israeli authorities.

In addition to the Eli-Hayovel road, Yesh Din has documented recent work at the Havat Gilad outpost, west of Nablus, where settlers built a road to the Nablus bypass road.

The Defense Ministry said in a statement that Defense Minister Ehud Barak and the defense establishment are committed to enforcing law and order in the West Bank and have prevented the creation of new outposts as well as removing people from existing ones.

"Minister Barak has instructed law enforcement authorities to act with determination against violations during the transition period as well," the statement said.

The Yesha Council of Jewish Settlements said the High Court petition was "a legal provocation."

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