The settlers of Har Homa, in south Jerusalem, burned thousands of dunums next to their settlement in Abu Ghneim hill. Since 2003 the Apartheid Wall has blocked access to 3000 dunum of Beit Sahour, Bethlehem and Beit Jala in order to facilitate the expansion of Har Homa. Palestinians stuck on either side of the Wall were not allowed to do anything but watch the flames rising from the remaining part of the forest that had been expanding once over the entire hill. The local Palestinian Wild Life Committee points out that many rare wild animals still live in what is left of the forest. They are now to be victims of the fire as the expansion of the colony swallows the last green area of the forest. The Occupation authorities are planning to build the biggest health compound in the Middle East in its place. A tourist complex is to be constructed there as well, including hotels and swimming pools for international tourists and pilgrims coming to visit Bethlehem. These plans are to further destroy any tourism within Bethlehem to ensure pilgrims will finance the Zionist colonies instead.
The Zionist colony was established in 1997 after a huge fire in the forest (See photos below). 1850 dunum have been confiscated from its owners in Bethlehem, Beit Sahour, Um Tuba and Sur Baher. Many wild animals including birds and foxes lost their natural habitat. According to the Wild Life Committee, wild animals who have since been deprived of their natural habitat started entering Beit Sahour and disrupting life for the villagers. Furthermore, the Committee sent out an alert that many rare animals might disappear from this region if fires continue to destroy the forest and settlement expansion continues.
This is not the only case where Palestinian lands are threatened by deliberately set fires. Large swaths of lands, especially those isolated behind the Apartheid Wall, are burned by Zionist colonizers or occupation forces. This month, the lands and fruits of Tura Sharqiyya and Gharbiyya were burnt.
For Palestinians villagers any activity on their land is forbidden by law and harsh punishments are inflicted every time the farmers defy the racist rules that aim to dispossess and expel them. Meanwhile, if you are a Zionist occupier everything you do has a justified reason and the law will support you. This is the situation in occupied Palestine and this is the role of the âIsraeli High Courtâ. This âCourtâ legitimizes all settlersâ crimes against nature by allowing them to destroy forests, to build colonies, to burn thousand of farmed dunums of land and to attack our people at will. At the same time, this âCourtâ forbids Palestinians from building and expanding on their lands and, among the myriad of rules and laws, the Occupation imposes large âenvironmentalâ fines to the farmers for preparing their fields or plants. For example, they are usually fined for removing wild grass from around their trees and for cutting low branches off their trees so that they grow better next season.