Israeli settlers are colonising Palestinian territory under the guise of moving in to areas to protect historic archaeological sites, the British government has said.
Ministers say they are concerned that the Israeli government agency in charge of preserving historic artefacts is undermining efforts for peace in the region by working with a group of “radical” settlers.
The ‘Elad’ settler group is known for aggressively colonising Palestinian areas, including evicting Palestinian residents from homes in urban areas after taking ownership of buildings under the Israeli legal system.
“We are aware of the link between the Elad [settler] group and the Israel Antiquities Authority. We are concerned that this link has led to Israel Antiquities Authority’s support of radical settler activities in and around the Old City under the guise of tourism and protection of Jewish history,” Conservative Foreign Office minister Baroness Anelay said.
“Such actions not only aggravate mounting pressures in East Jerusalem but serve to increase tension around the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif and further complicate future attempts to negotiate a political resolution on the city.”
An Israeli soldier pulls a Palestinian during a demonstration against Israeli settlements in the village of Turmus Aya near the West Bank city of Ramallah
Elad has previously paid the Israel Antiquities Authority to dig deep trenches near the foundations Palestinian homes and mosques in East Jerusalem.
Palestinian residents of the area blamed the excavations for the collapse of a number of their buildings, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
Last week Elad settlers are reported to have entered an East Jerusalem apartment building lived in by Palestinians and removed the belongings of the people who lived there.
The resident of the building, a woman, at been summoned to a local police station for questioning at the time.
In a statement the group said the properly belonged to them, that the homes had been purchased 20 years ago, and that it was had “exercised its rights”.
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