Israeli daily, Haaretz, reported Thursday that the Israeli army handed an abandoned military base in the occupied West Bank to a nearby settlement council to be used by the settlers. The base, near the southern West Bank city of Hebron, was formerly used as a training center for the Army Engineering Corps. It was evacuated more than 10 years ago.Settlers of the so-called “South Hebron Hills Regional Council of Settlements” started remodeling the base before the army handed it to them, and even began building a concrete wall around it.

The settlers have been trying to take control over the former base since the day the army left it, and said that “they fear the Palestinians could take control over it”.

According to Haaretz, Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, approved in August of 2010 a request by the South Hebron Hills Regional Council of Settlements, allowing them to take over the former military base, and even granted the settlers an official license to use it.

The so-called Civil Administration, run by the Israeli army in the occupied West Bank, signed a contract in January 2011, granting the settlers approval to make use of the former base until 2016.

The Israeli Peace Now movement stated that this agreement between the soldiers and the settlers is just part of an ongoing process in which the army seizes West Bank Palestinian lands, citing security concerns, and then hands them to the settlers.

The army said that the license that was granted in 2011 does not authorize the settlers to build new structures on the former base, adding that it is to be used “to provide humanitarian aid to both Israelis and Palestinians, for firefighting and emergency services only”, Haaretz said.

Yet, the structure is now in the hands of the settlers and is totally off-limits to the Palestinian population in the area.