Settlement construction in the occupied Palestinian territory represents a breach of international law, a top United Nations (UN) envoy said on Thursday. It comes after Israel ordered hundreds of new units to be build there.
The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, stated that all settlement construction - whether on private Palestinian land or elsewhere in the occupied Palestinian territory - is contrary to international law. The UN statement was issued after the Israeli government announced it will build 300 new units in the Beit El settlement.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly ordered the construction of the new units after Israel's parliament rejected a bill which would have legalized settlement outposts.
Serry described the situation as 'deeply troubling,' as he reiterated his recent warning to the UN Security Council that both sides should realized it threatens a two-State solution. "Instead, we could be moving down the path toward a one-State reality, which would also move us further away from regional peace in the spirit of the Arab Peace Initiative," he said.
In addition, a study was released by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in conjunction with the Applied Research Institute Jerusalem (ARIJ) in which it described the detrimental impact of the West Bank Barrier on the environment and Palestinian refugees.
According to the study, over 170 communities have been directly affected as well as farmers owning land behind the Barrier. Land degradation, severe flooding and destruction of water sources are cited among the most devastating consequences of the Barrier, along with reductions in livestock due to limited grazing space, which significantly affect people’s livelihoods.
Meanwhile, West Bank director of UNRWA operations Felipe Sanchez said the presented research demonstrates that the Barrier not only has a devastating impact on Palestine refugees' livelihoods, but also on the surrounding environment.
Talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians stalled in September 2010 after Israel refused to extend its freeze on settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory and negotiations have yet to resume.