The Palestinian Authority is increasing illegal activity in the area of the Masuda railway station near Sebastia in Samaria, Regavim reported Wednesday. The ancient railway station was established by the Ottomans in 1915, during the First World War.
The area has been state-owned land by definition at least since that war, and since it is within Area C of Judea and Samaria, the Oslo Accords determine that it is under full Israeli control. However, the slopes of the deserted railroad compound are located in an area where control over construction was transferred to the Palestinian Authority under the same Oslo Accords.
In late 1976, the Gush Emunim settlers movement attempted to establish a settlement at the Ottoman train station. The Israeli government did not approve the move and the group that was removed from the site later established the settlement of Elon Moreh near Shechem.
In recent days, members of the Regavim movement have discovered a large number of heavy equipment that began paving a road along the Turkish railway route in an area under Israeli control. In addition, the organization is investigating whether a new building has been erected in the past few days, also in an area under Israeli control and against the law.
This is not the first time the Palestinian Authority has conducted illegal activity in the Sebastia area. About a year and a half ago, Regavim warned the Civil Administration, based on preliminary information, that the PA intended to pave an illegal asphalt road going through the station compound towards the village of Burqa. Despite this advance warning, the Civil Administration’s supervision unit did not prevent the paving. In 2013, illegal structures were erected in the compound, but the demolition orders against them have yet to be implemented.
The Civil Administration claimed in response to Regavim’s urgent reports that “this is a site where—in light of the security situation—any [COGAT] visit requires prior coordination [with the IDF] and military protection, and therefore the complexity of the visit makes it difficult to take enforcement and supervision actions at the site.”
It should be noted that hikers and history buffs tour the area freely, and the IDF does not require that they coordinate those trips, as the Army very much does require from Israelis visiting trouble spots such as Joseph’s tomb not far away.
“As far as we know, this is a clear and deliberate attempt at a takeover by the Palestinian Authority, Which is trying to push the Israeli presence away from this site,” said Yishai Hamo, Regavim’s coordinator of operations in Judea and Samaria. He added: “Over the past year there has been a large number of illegal work throughout the compound, and the lack of enforcement in such an important place is an outrageous failure.”
Yossi Dagan, head of the Samaria Council noted how offensive it is that “while the settlement movement is forced to struggle for government budgets to pave roads that are vital lifelines, the Palestinian Authority is not hesitating to pave facts on the ground.”