The Israeli Minister of Defense, Moshe Ya’alon, has “permitted” adding the seized church of Beit Al-Baraka to the expanding illegal settlement, Gush Etzion, located south to Bethlehem, central occupied West Bank. According to Israeli media, the move will expand the settlement by some 40 dunams.

According to the PNN, the church was purchased last May by a Jewish American millionaire, through a Norwegian woman who claimed she was member of an American church. It is now surrounded by soldiers and an already existing military point, right on the other side of the road where Al-Arroub refugee camp lies.

The name of the historical church, built in the 1940’s, has been changed from Beit Al-Baraka to the Hebrew name, Beit Barcha. It also consists of eight buildings.

According to the Israel National News, Ya’alon’s permit allows the building to be included under the auspices of the Etzion council and also will allow for the buildings to be inhabited immediately. Since the buildings previously existed, there is no need for a building permit.

The Israeli military has repressed several Palestinian protests against the seizure and the illegal expansion, which will engorge more Palestinian land.

The Israeli military wing for the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) also issued a statement which said: “The addition of Bayit-Al-Barka to the auspices of the regional council of Gush Etzion was evaluated according to the existing criteria which had been established by the relevant professional parties. It was ratified by the Executive branch of government and was finalized in accordance with their directive.”

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