HEBRON: Creeping Annexation Continues in Wadi al-Ghroos

December 19, 2003
HEBRON: Creeping Annexation Continues in Wadi al-Ghroos

By Jerry Levin

A towering mound of rock and stone fill is growing higher just outside the
northern edge of the West Bank's oldest Israeli settlement, Kiryat Arba.
Purposefully being dumped onto adjacent Palestinian farmland in
a shallow valley called Wadi al-Ghroos, the mound's looming presence marks
the latest incremental phase in the expansion of the settlement's borders at
the expense of its Palestinian neighbors. The fill is being used to surface
thirty five-foot wide dirt swaths being bulldozed further and further down,
into, and over the valley's fields, orchards, and vineyards.

Once the Israelis have completed the surfacing, they will install high wire
fences equipped with electronic sensors for "security reasons" according to
the settlers.

However, according to Palestinians, who are losing property and livelihood
to Kiryat Arba, the roads and fences are being built, like those in the
past, so that the settlers can "steal our land."

Security for the settlers is an issue, because a former protective buffer
"security" zone of land previously taken from Wadi al-Ghroos Palestinians,
situated outside the settlement's former outer ring of housing, has
disappeared beneath a long row of recently-built settler homes. So a
replacement buffer security zone for this new outer ring is now in the
process of being created.

There is an historic sameness to this process. For instance, each time a new
expansion takes place, the Israeli authorities promise that Wadi al-Ghroos
farmers that once the work is completed they will have access to their
former plots. But in practice this has not been the case. In fact once the
work begins, armed settlers begin to prevent them from working their land.
So during the past year, farmers have lost a stretch of land at the
northwest corner of Kiryat Arba extending about a quarter of the distance
along its northern edges-- approximately 50 dunams. (Four dunams equal one
acre.) Recently,
bulldozers again began leveling paths for those new graveled roads along
which more of those fences with their electronic sensors will be
built, thus paving the way for the isolation of another fifty or so dunams
along the settlements' northern edge.

Each time settlement boundaries push out from Kiryat Arba and into Wadi al
Ghroos, affected families, through lawyers, lodge official complaints, which
are eventually futile. So with respect to the current dispute, even though
the Israeli Army has temporarily halted bulldozing, its restraining order
has not affected the continued buildup of that growing mound of rock and
stone fill. Dump trucks continue unhindered to add to the pile; so
expectations are, as in the past, that more Wadi al-Ghroos'
farmland, which Palestinians have lovingly and thankfully worked for
generations, is destined to end up beyond their reach and benefit.

As a result, and notwithstanding "Road Map" prohibitions regarding
settlement expansion, the process of creeping annexation of Palestinian land
in Wadi al Ghroos, and elsewhere in the West Bank continues without pause.