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AFP: Israel settlement builder in dire straits

Published August 3, 2007 By AFP

Heftsiba, one of Israel’s largest firms building settlements in the occupied West Bank, is in danger of closing, according to media reports Friday.

The company, which specializes in constructing inexpensive accommodation for ultra-Orthodox families, is in debt to the tune of $200 million, the reports said.

Heftsiba has now had to halt work on thousands of homes at the settlements of Betar Ilit, Modiin Ilit, and Ma’aleh Adumim in the West Bank, as well as at Har Homa in East Jerusalem.

Because they fear that their new homes may now be seized by creditors, some buyers have already moved into unfinished apartments.

In January 2006, the supreme court ordered a halt to building work on 1,500 homes at Modiin Ilit, following an application by the Peace Now movement. The court ruled that Heftsiba had encroached on private Palestinian land in the nearby village of Beilin and also doubled the number of homes that it had been authorized to build.

“What has happened to Heftsiba shows that those who steal land from Palestinians end up stealing from Israelis,” Peace Now chief Yariv Oppenheimer said.