[Wednesday, February 05, 2014] Ahmad Sob-Laban, a Palestinian researcher specializing in Israeli settlement activities, stated that Israel is preparing to expand the Maaleh Zeitim illegal settlement, built in the heart of Ras al-‘Amoud Palestinian neighborhood, in occupied East Jerusalem.Sob-Laban said that, last month, the Jerusalem City Council issued a permit to construct a 400 square meter building that includes three separate pools dedicated to religious settlers, separating men from women, and will be surrounded by a 3 meter wall.

The pools are known as Mikveh, and are used for ritual immersion in Judaism.

The official added that the new plan is intended to be implemented on nearly 2 dunams (0.49 acres), south of the settlement, overlooking Wadi Qaddoum road.

Similar to all of illegitimate Israeli settlement activities, the plan ignores the rights of the Palestinian natives in the area, and is yet another violation of their internationally guaranteed right.

The Refugees Department at the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) said that Ras al-‘Amoud has been the target for Israel’s illegal settlement activities since 1997, when three settler families established the illegal Maaleh Zeitim outpost that has continued to expand since then.

There are currently around 500 settlers living in Maaleh Zeitim, and the settlement is currently in its second stage of expansion as Israel will also be conducting a third stage of expansion to reach the current goal of 150 units.

The third stage would include the removal of the Hamdallah family, living in their own since 1952. Should the family be removed, Israel will be building additional 34 units.

The Refugee Department said that settlements are encroaching into the Palestinian neighborhood and that, last year, Israel placed the cornerstone of Maaleh David, after approving the construction of 17 units for Jewish settlers.

The construction of the 17 units is supervised by the Bukharim settlement group, and are located in place of the old police station, known as “Judea and Samaria Police Station”.

The old station was used by the Jordanians before Israel occupied the West Bank and Jerusalem in 1967.

Israel moved the police station to the E1 settlement bloc when it received funding from Bukharim in exchange for allowing the settlers to live at the old station in Ras al-‘Amoud.

Bukharim has tight connections with the El ‘Ad settlement group that is active in illegitimate settlement activities in Silwan, occupied East Jerusalem.

Sob-Laban said that the company in charge of constructions already started advertising the 17 units.

The ads are in regard to units of 3-6 rooms each, and state that the units are “deluxe”, as part of the implementation of the plan to establish the Maalot David settlement.

The second stage of construction would be the construction of 104 additional units, in addition to a school, a synagogue, and a sports club also used by settlers of Maaleh Zeitim illegal settlement, only five meters away across the street.

The street also links between Ras al-’Amoud Palestinian neighborhood and Wady Qaddoum.

Israel intends to link the two settlements by a bridge so that the number of units would be 270, in addition to 23 units that would be built in a separate plan in a new outpost in Rad al-‘Amoud.

The 23 units would be built in two residential buildings that would replace a gas station and a number of Palestinian stores close to the Maaleh David.

Sob-Laban said that, should Tel Aviv implement these projects in Ras al-‘Amoud, it will be creating the largest outpost in the heart of Palestinian neighborhoods, as part of Israel’s activities aiming at increasing the number of settlers, and reducing the number of indigenous Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem.