New York – Palestinian thieves and gangs are stealing Jewish land that formerly belonged to the 9,000 Jews who were uprooted earlier this year as part of Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza. Large areas in Khan Yunis and Rafah are also reported to have been fenced off by local families, gangs and individuals.
A recent report by Khaled Abu Toameh in the Jerusalem Post provides a stark picture of the situation in Gaza in which the Palestinian Authority (PA) is failing to prevent many land thieves from laying their hands on the former area of Gush Katif. While PA officials have expressed concern over events, they have also pointed out that some of the thieves belong to various branches of the PA security forces (Jerusalem Post, November 2).
Adli Sadek, a prominent political analyst from Khan Yunis who has also recently been appointed PA ambassador to Romania, accused the PA of failing to control the situation — a fact which he said has encouraged many Palestinians to lay their hands on large areas. “Each day that passes without the intervention of the PA helps in creating new facts on the ground,” he said, referring to construction work that is being carried out on public lands. “This silence on the part of the PA has also led to a black market in real estate, where anyone can buy and sell without hindrance.”
According to Sadek, the land theft is pushing Palestinian society closer to the abyss. He added that a “festival of land theft” is under way while the PA is sitting and watching. “We see this silence as a scandal and an indication that things here are collapsing … The land grab is happening under the looking eyes of the security forces.”
In response to the escalating terrorism, smuggling and general chaos, Israeli Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman, Yuval Steinitz, has urged the government to approve a major Israel Defense Forces incursion into northern Gaza and the establishment of a buffer zone there to protect Israeli towns and villages from terrorist attacks.
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “Since Israel withdrew, thousands of weapons have been smuggled into Gaza, Judea and Samaria, dozens of terrorists have entered from Egypt, over a hundred rocket attacks on Israel have occurred and now land theft is taking place. The thriving Jewish communities have been uprooted and in their place, thieves simply take what they can get, creating a black market in land.
“Despite expressions of concern by the PA, nothing is being done about it and in fact elements of the PA security forces are taking part in the theft. We urge President Bush to pressure Mahmoud Abbas to make it clear to him that he must immediately put an end to the terror and lawlessness in Gaza. If Abbas is not able to put an end to this disaster in Gaza, then Yuval Steinitz’s proposal to move Israeli troops into northern Gaza to create a buffer zone must be implemented immediately.”