The ‘Jews-only’ settlement of ‘Elkana’, built on illegally seized Palestinian land, has begun construction of an additional 54 houses on farmland belonging to Mas’ha village farmers.
Elkana settlement has been taking over Mas’ha lands, east of Salfit district, since the 1970’s. New expansion plans will further take over village land that has been isolated behind the Apartheid Wall. While the gates and the wall are barring farmers from reaching their lands, settlement construction is currently destroying their plantations.
Villagers learned about the new settlement expansion on their land through a Call for Quotation to build 54 housing units in Elkana settlement which was published in Israeli newspapers. The new housing units will be built north of the current settlement construction on the village lands isolated by the wall.
Since the beginning of this Intifada, the Israeli military has destroyed hundreds of olive trees belonging to Mas’ha farmers and bulldozed farmlands. The construction of the Elkana settlement in the late 1970s initially took about 2,000 dunum of Masha land. The construction of the Israeli Annexation Wall over the last two years has isolated another 4,000 to 4,500 dunum from their owners. These lands are full of olive trees and many are cultivated with vegetables and greenhouses.
Two gates have been built to complete the Wall. One closes the village from the West. It is built for the exclusive use of Hani Amer and his family, whose house has been caught between the Apartheid Wall and the fencing of Elkana in a veritable prison. The other gate bars the way to the lands north of Mas’ha. It has been dubbed a “seasonal gate” and it is almost always closed. Farmers have been allowed to pass 5 days since the beginning of the year (during February and March) to prepare the land for the planting season. Even those few days gave only villagers “with permit” access to their lands. In Mas’ha, 150 farmers did not get any permits while some 500 villagers got “permits” for a gate near Beit Amin, one hour away from Mas’ha. Most of the farmers have no transportation so were unable to reach their lands (the north gate is not more than 10 minutes away from the village).
Mas’ha village farmers once owned 8,800 dunum of land but the illegal Israeli seizures have left the village with less than 1,800 dunum. According to the local leaders of the Grassroots Committee Against the Wall, the building of the Wall on their land and the expansion of the Elkana settlement is a tactic being employed by the Israeli occupiers to "fragment and destroy Palestinian existence in Salfit district for the sake of expansion of ‘Ariel Finger’ settlements."
All Israeli settlements built on Palestinian land seized and occupied during the 1967 War have been declared illegal by the International Court of Justice. Transfer of civilian populations onto militarily-occupied land is a direct violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, of which Israel is a signatory since 1953.