Israeli sources reported on Saturday night after midnight that the so-called Supreme Planning Council for settlements in the occupied West Bank, authorized recently the construction of what was described as the “largest-ever” illegal settlement on lands which belong to Palestinian residents of Bil'in village, near Ramallah, in the northern part of the West Bank.

The project calls for the construction of 42 units containing approximately 1500 apartments for settlers. It is already in various construction stages, and is taking place in Matityahu East illegal settlement, located in the large ultra-Orthodox settlement of Modi'in Ilit, which was also constructed on lands Israel illegally seized from Palestinians.

An Israeli online daily reported that residents of Bil'in village and the Israeli 'Peace Now' movement filed a petition to the Israeli High Court of Justice against the illegal constructions last week.

Last year, the Israeli High Court of Justice ordered a halt on the constructions in the same area following an appeal filed by Peace Now and Bil'in residents. The halt also includes the occupation of the buildings.

The illegal settlement neighborhood is being constructed by two companies registered in Canada; Green Park and Green Mount, two other companies known as Ein Ami and Hefziba, are also taking part in the conduction.

The report added that “The laundering of the buildings' construction allows members of the planning council, who were aware of the illegalities and did nothing to stop them, to avoid criminal charges and suits for damages”.

Michael Sfrad, the attorney representing the petitioners, called for halting the constructions, and said that the planning authorities knew that illegal constructions are taking place but did nothing to stop them.

Sfrad also said that the route of the Annexation Wall in that area was planned in a way that would leave space for new settlement activities on Palestinian lands isolated on the other side of the Wall.

Recently, the Israeli Housing Ministry issued a request which sought hundreds of dunams of Palestinian orchards that belong to the residents of Bil'in in order to expand Modi'in Ilit settlement.

"The takeover of the lands was carried out by a conspiracy involving private developers and Israeli authorities. Thus, criminal companies that stole private Palestinian lands won the protection of the 'fence' – which was intended as a means of security and became a tool for annexation – as well as backing from the planning authorities, whose approval laundered the offenses," Sfard wrote in the petition as published by the Israeli online daily.

High Court Justice Salim Jubran, said that Israel must respond to the petition by March 6th.

The petition filed by Sfrad stated that the taking over of the land, and the Supreme Planning Council's decision is considered an attempt to “bury the criminal act and the impaired rights of ownership deep in the earth, and would quickly lead to continued construction of the neighborhood, as if no offense had been committed and there were never any rights of ownership”, the online daily reported.

It also reported that the Planning Authorities did not attempt to take into account the claims of the Palestinian residents who possess documents proving their ownership of the land.

Moreover, the Israeli online daily said that Moshe Moskowitz of the so-called Civil Administration Office, which belongs to the Israeli army occupying the West Bank and is also the highest authority in planning and conducting in the West Bank, wrote in September 2004 to the comptroller of Modi'in settlement council and said that "construction authorization for the new project of Matityahu East was doubtless given against the instructions of the existing [master] plan and therefore was not within the licensing authority's power."

Last week, members of the Planning Council, showed interest in “legalizing” the constructions in an attempt to avoid the demolition of dozens of illegal apartments which will also subject them to lawsuits by purchasers.

The Council said it had no master plan for expanding Mod'in Ilit, and cited a Jordanian Law, which became the base for an Israeli Law in the West Bank. The law stated that “small communities” do not have to have a master plan for the construction of new neighborhoods.

But this concept ignores the basic fact that all settlements and outposts are built on lands that were illegaly confiscated from the Palestinians by Israel and by settlers groups.