Farmers from the Jordan Valley miss their agricultural season and their lands due to settlement expansion

The elderly Majed Daraghmeh is living in a small part of what is left of his land in the Jordan Valley area, in the far east of the West Bank, after settlers confiscated most of it and annexed it to the "Roi" settlement near the area.

He feels sad and crying every time he turns towards a barbed wire fence with which settlers besieged his 40 dunums of agricultural land and annexed it for the benefit of the settlement, at a time when they left him only five dunams to farm and live on.

The eighty-year-old old man, or as the residents of the area called him “the guardian of the land,” intended to plow his land and cultivate it this season every year before he found the settlers confiscating it without warning.

Dark-skinned Daraghmeh, who puts his keffiyeh on his head, told Xinhua that the settlers surrounded the land with a barbed wire fence and later informed him that it was confiscated for the sake of expanding the settlement.

The man, whose face was wrinkled, asserts that he owns ownership papers in the land he inherited from his father and has been surviving from its cultivation since the fifties of the last century, but the settlers confiscated the land in moments without restraint.

Daraghmeh, who supports a family of 11, is one of about 20 Palestinian families who lost their land in the area due to the establishment or expansion of the settlement years ago.

The seemingly helpless man hopes to be able to reclaim his land for cultivation this year, as he has only a few acres left to cultivate.

The Jordan Valley is witnessing land seizures by the Israeli army, whether for the purposes of military training on the one hand or the establishment of outposts on the other, according to Moataz Basharat, the official in charge of the Jordan Valley file in Tubas and the Jordan Valley.

Bisharat told Xinhua that the control of Palestinian lands is carried out through two paths, the first by the army for the purpose of military training or closed military areas, pointing out that the area confiscated for this purpose amounted to about 185,000 dunams.

He adds that the second track involves confiscation of lands under the pretext that they are natural protected areas, and about 76,000 dunams were confiscated for this purpose, accusing the Israeli authorities of using this ploy to control the lands and then hand them over to settlers to establish outposts.
Bisharat explains that the confiscation and control of Palestinian lands are proceeding in an unprecedented manner in the Jordan Valley for the benefit of settlers and the establishment of new outposts or the expansion of the existing ones.

He continues that the confiscation decisions are made by the Israeli government, which has left nothing in the Jordan Valley, including pastures for livestock and agricultural lands, to the extent that the owner of the land needs a permit to enter his land, while one settler controls 7000 dunams of land.

He points out that the Jordan Valley includes 19 Palestinian communities, all of whose homes are threatened with demolition and removal, which means that about 12,000 people are threatened with deportation from their land.

Bisharat considers that what is happening in the Jordan Valley is a process of “annexation” by Israel, holding the international community responsible for “the crime that the Palestinians are subjected to, since all parties are aware of what is happening on the ground, but without moving a finger.”

The Jordan Valley area, with an area of ​​about 720,000 dunums, constitutes 30 percent of the West Bank, and about 50,000 Palestinians live in it, including the city of Jericho, which is 2 percent of the total Palestinian population in the West Bank, according to official Palestinian statistics.

The Palestinians consider the Jordan Valley to be a vital part of the future Palestinian state, as the food basket of the West Bank and its external border with Jordan.

The Jordan Valley area constitutes 50 percent of the total agricultural areas in the West Bank, and it produces 60 percent of the total vegetables.
Jaafar Salahat, director of the Agriculture Directorate in Tubas and the Northern Jordan Valley, told Xinhua that about 25,000 dunums of agricultural land that are cultivated with field crops, their owners suffer from great inconveniences, which threatens their ability to continue.

Salahat adds that Israel is trying to pressure the Palestinians by various means, including confiscating land or preventing cultivation, and even if they are allowed to cultivate their land, it will be destroyed through military exercises or allowing settlers to graze their livestock there.

Salahat points out that the Israeli measures have an impact on the level of agricultural production in general in the Jordan Valley areas.

Israel controls 87 percent of the Jordan Valley's border lands, and considers it a security reserve, and says it wants to keep the area within any solution with the Palestinians, who absolutely reject that.

The director of the Popular Action Department in the Palestinian Authority’s Wall and Settlement Resistance Commission, Abdullah Abu Rahma, says that the volume of land confiscation and home demolition notices for Palestinians has witnessed a significant escalation in recent years.

Abu Rahma added to (Xinhua) that the notifications include the deportation of residents from their lands and homes, either permanently or for different periods of time, all of which are means of putting pressure on the Palestinian presence in the Jordan Valley.

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