Days of Palestine – Jericho
The Israeli occupation forces recently seized Ain al-Auja nature reserve in Jericho, which is the largest Palestinian wildlife sanctuary in the occupied West Bank.
Describing the Israeli step as a “major land grab scheme,” the Israeli Peace Now movement said that the Israeli army’s civil administration signed on April 12 an order declaring about 22,000 dunums of Palestinian land in the south of the ancient city of Jericho as a “nature reserve.”
However, this declaration was published only one week ago, and it will take effect 60 days after its publication, according to Peace Now.
In addition to the large-scale restrictions that already exist in Area C of the West Bank, which is under full Israeli military control, there would be additional restrictions on Palestinian usage of their lands in this area. For example, owners of the land that was declared “nature reserve” cannot cultivate their land, plant any trees or graze their cattle on their own land without approval from the Israeli nature reserve officer, Peace Now said.
“This is not a matter of nature conservation but a matter of taking over the land. In the occupied territories, nature reserves are one of the many tools Israel uses to dispossess Palestinians of their lands. The Israeli government is losing its shame, and towards what seems to be the end of its political path, it is beginning to run amok and deepen the occupation in every possible way. The occupation cannot be washed away with green colors. The occupation remains a black spot on the State of Israel and it is time to end it,” Peace Now underscored.
“Since the 1980s, Israel has declared hundreds of thousands of dunums in the West Bank as nature reserves and used them to dispossess Palestinians. Immediately after the Oslo Accords in the 1990s, announcements of new reserves were stopped. In January 2020, then-Defense Minister Naftali Bennett announced his intention to announce seven new nature reserves in the Occupied Territories. Then in October 2020, three reserves were declared in the Jordan Valley area, with a total area of 10,880 dunums (2,693 acres),” the Israeli activist group said.
“To date, Israel has declared about 48 nature reserves in the West Bank, with a total area of at least 383,600 dunums (95,000 acres), which are about 12 percent of Area C and about 7 percent of the entire West Bank,” it added.