Jerusalem church criticizes Israel for not stopping trespassing settlers

A demonstrator holding a Palestinian flag stands amid Israeli border police during a protest against Israeli settlements and U.S. President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan. The protest was in the Jordan Valley, part of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Feb. 25, 2020. (CNS photo/Raneen Sawafta, Reuters)

By Judith Sudilovsky 
Catholic News Service

JERUSALEM (CNS) — The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem filed a protest against thousands of Israeli settlers trespassing on its private property in the Jordan Valley.

The patriarchate also condemned the lack of Israeli response to its official complaints.

“The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem is very concerned not only from the settlers’ violation of its properties, but also from the lack of action by the Israeli authorities to put an end (to) such violations,” it said in a Feb. 22 statement.

The Unit for Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories, COGAT, did not respond to email inquiries by Catholic News Service.

Wadie Abunassar, spokesman for the Jerusalem patriarchate, said the settlers brought several buses and dozens of cars onto the property Feb. 21 and held a march demanding Israeli sovereignty — presumably over the Jordan Valley — across two of their plots on the 2,470-acre property.

Settlers have also brought cattle to graze on the church’s property in the village of Tayasir, West Bank, causing “considerable damage,” the patriarchate statement said.

“The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem protested to the Israeli authorities on similar violations of its property near Tayasir by settlers, but — so far — violations to our property continue to take place while the authorities are practically allowing such violations to continue,” the statement said.

The patriarchate allows some local Palestinian farmers to use portions of the property, while other parcels have been deemed a closed military zone by the IDF, noted Abunassar.

“We and the Palestinians are not allowed to use part of this land, and suddenly the settlers are allowed,” said Abunassar. “This is private property and, just as we demand Palestinians respect it, we also demand Israelis respect it.”

“We urge the Israeli authorities, once again, to make sure that (the law) be respected by all people under their control and to avoid further illegal breaking into our properties,” the patriarchate added in its statement.

Under terms of U.S. President Donald Trump’s peace plan, released in January, the Jordan Valley would remain under Israeli control. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged to begin annexing the area.

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