Since the beginning of the war that started following the Hamas massacre on October 7th, we have witnessed an unprecedented surge in illegal construction by settlers across the West Bank. In the past six weeks alone, we have documented the establishment of at least four new outposts and the creation of no fewer than nine new unauthorized roads, many leading to illegal outposts.
Illegal construction in the West Bank occurs throughout the year. However, in many instances, during times of war and military operations, we observe a notable increase in the number of outposts established on the ground. For example, during the Guardian of the Walls operation (May 2021), the Evyatar outpost was established in the lands of the villages of Yatma and Beita. The Civil Administration, which minimally enforces settler illegal construction during regular times, is operating with limited capacities. In practice, this enabled settler construction to proceed almost unhindered.
During the current conflict, there is an unprecedented surge in the expansion of illegal roads and pathways built by settlers, the likes of which we have not witnessed since the Second Intifada. Alongside illegal construction, there are numerous cases of preventing Palestinians from accessing their lands in Area C and taking control of at least one well.
Peace Now’s Settlement Watch team has documented at least 9 new unauthorized roads that have been paved since the onset of the war. Each of these roads spans hundreds of meters, with many extending for several kilometers. Often, the construction of a new road facilitates the takeover of a significant area, hindering or preventing Palestinians from accessing their lands near the road. These new roads provide convenient access from main highways or settlements to recently established outposts and agricultural areas used by settlers. Some of these roads have been laid on private Palestinian lands. During the war, some of the paved roads were asphalted, allowing smooth travel with minimal obstacles. In some instances, the initial road construction was facilitated using heavy mechanical equipment. In at least one case, a road was paved within a declared nature reserve.
List of Roads:
- 1) Sneh Yaakov/Givaat Ronen Outpost near the village of Burin – Unauthorized road on the lands of the village of Burin.
- 2) Peduel Settlement, on the lands of Kufr ad–Dik – Lengthy unauthorized road south of the settlement and west towards the village of Kufr ad–Dik. The road leads to a new outpost.
- 3) Nahal Kana Nature Reserve – New road breach from the Alonei Shilo outpost towards the Immanuel settlement. The entire road passes through the territory of the Nahal Kana Nature Reserve. The road was initially breached in 2018, and Peace Now has filed a complaint with the police regarding the ongoing work.
- 4) Shilo Outposts – A road connecting the Esh Kodesh outposts to the east has been established, likely serving as access to agricultural lands owned by the settlements.
- 5) Shilo Outposts – A road along Alon Road (Route 458) from the east towards the Shilo Outposts has been established.
- 6) Wadi A-Sik – leading from Alon Road (Route 458) towards the new outpost of Ben Fazi. The road continues for several kilometers along a dirt road that existed previously. Ben Fazi’s outpost was established in June of this year, and the new road crosses the area of Wadi A-Sik, eastward to the village of Deir Dibwan, among the Bedouin communities of Wadi A-Sik who were displaced from their lands during the war.
- 7) Sde Yonatan – an outpost that was re-established at the onset of the war. Settlers had previously tried to establish it several times but were unsuccessful. A road has been constructed to the renewed outpost through private land.
- 8) Negohot North – Breach and asphalt-covered road from the Nogohot settlement towards a northern outpost, established only in July of this year.
- 9) HaMor/Tene Omarim – Agricultural road breach from the east towards the Tene Omrim settlement and eastwards to the Hamor’s and Shabtay’s farm.
Since the outbreak of the war, Peace Now’s Settlement Watch team has documented at least four new settlement outposts. On top of that, at least one additional outpost, which in the past was built and evacuated, was again reconstructed.
List of Outposts:
- 1) South of the Peduel settlement.
- 2) In the vicinity of the Shilo settlements, west of the Avichai settlement, and on the lands of the village of Turmus Ayya, new caravans were deployed.
- 3) Near the Asa’el outpost in the southern Hebron Hills, a pergola/tent was erected, and the area is now inhabited by settlers.
- 4) Adjacent to the Asa’el outpost, a few hundred meters to the west, another outpost was established, including a mobile structure and a tent.
In addition, a few days after the start of the war, settlers re-established the Sde Yonatan outpost on lands in Deir Dibwan. Sde Yonatan has been established and demolished several times in the last two years. North of the Ngohot settlement, settlers continued to expand the outpost established on Beit Awwa lands last July.
Construction with Planning and Approval
In addition to the illegal construction expansion by settlers, a road was paved from the Emmanuel outpost towards Nahal Kana Road (Route 248). The plan for the road was published in February, and an expropriation order was issued (Order No. 28/06/T). Concerns arise that this road may connect in the future to the road breach made from the Aloni Shilo outpost on the second bank of Wadi Kana.
Likewise, due to pressure from the Minister of Transportation, work on the Huwara Bypass Road continued during the war, and it was paved on Sunday, November 12, 2023. The road construction cost 350 million shekels and led to the expropriation of 406 dunams of private Palestinian land.
Seizure of a Spring
During the war, we are aware of at least one case of settlers seizing control of the Ein Silon spring, located on one of the southern roads from the village of Qusra to Highway 60. The road has been unused for many years and is blocked to Palestinian traffic. Since the end of October, settlers from the Shilo area are arriving almost daily in the spring. In at least one case, settlers were documented vandalizing the structure of the spring.
Blocking Palestinian Traffic on Main Roads and Water Flow
As part of the struggle for control over area C, since the beginning of the war settlers are conducting protests and blocking roads in cases where the army is enabling Palestinian movement on main routes. Additionally, dozens of cases have been documented of hindering the Palestinian olive harvest, mainly in areas adjacent to the roadsides. The fight against the olive harvest has gained support from the calls of Minister Smotrich and MK Zvi Sukkot. At the beginning of the conflict, settlers placed Israeli flags between the main roads and the roads connecting to Palestinian villages as a symbol of authority. Palestinians are hesitant to remove the flags, and they have been standing in place for many weeks.
Peace Now: “While the internal and international attention is to the war, the West Bank has become a scene of unprecedented settler takeover in Area C. Settlers are establishing new outposts and breaking through roads in proportions not documented since the Second Intifada. Simultaneously, they prevent Palestinians from traveling on the main roads. Over the past month and a half, alongside settler violence, this activity has turned Area C into an almost fully controlled zone by settlers. If Israel does not act and enforce the law, in the aftermath of the Gaza war, we may wake up to the de facto annexation of Area C in the West Bank perpetrated by the settlers themselves.”