HEBRON (Ma'an) -- Israeli settlers began leveling a large tract of land in central Hebron in preparation for the construction of a new Jewish settlement outpost in the beleaguered southern West Bank city on Sunday.
Israeli settlers escorted a bulldozer which uprooted fifty-year-old trees in the Tel Rumeida neighborhood near the city center, near an existing extremist right wing Israeli settlement.
A Palestinian source told Ma'an that the Israeli liaison department notified the Palestinian side that Israeli authorities would do earthwork in the area for two months.
This notification, added the source, suggests that Israelis plan to establish a new settlement outpost near the old one known as "Ramat Yashi."
Spokesman for the Hebron activist group Youth Against Settlements Issa Amr highlighted that a mobile home was placed in the area after it was leveled by bulldozers.
This means a new outpost is being built, he added.
The land which was leveled was leased by the Abu Heikal family in 1949 from the Jordanian government's Custodian of Enemy Property, Abu Heikal told Ma'an in a phone call.
A new lease was signed after Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967, with the Israeli government's Custodian of Absentee Property, added Abu Heikal. In 1981, the Custodian of Absentee Property refused to take the rent fees, but in 2000 the family reached an agreement with the Israelis and paid for the years 1981-2000.
In 2001 and 2002, he added, the Israelis continued to take rent fees and after that they refused them again and announced the land a closed military zone denying the Palestinians access to it, despite his long-standing lease over the area. A fence was also built around the land.
Issa Amr said that the Israeli Civil Administration had rented the plot of land to Israeli settlers in a lease which came into effect on Jan. 1, 2014.
500 Israeli settlers live in the Old City of Hebron, many of whom have illegally occupied Palestinian houses and forcibly removed the original inhabitants. They are protected by thousands of Israeli forces.
Settlers and Israeli forces regularly target locals in the overwhelmingly Palestinian city for harassment, and many have been forced from their homes as a result.
A 1997 agreement split Hebron into areas of Palestinian and Israeli control.
The Israeli military-controlled H2 zone includes the ancient Old City, home of the revered Ibrahimi Mosque -- also split into a synagogue referred to as the Tomb of the Patriarchs -- and the once thriving Shuhada street, now just shuttered shops fronts and closed homes.
More than 500,000 Israeli settlers live in settlements across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, in contravention of international law.
The internationally recognized Palestinian territories of which the West Bank and East Jerusalem form a part have been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967.