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Rights group demands freeze on Israeli exploitation of West Bank quarries


9 March 2009

Israel is violating international law by exploiting the West Bank’s mineral resources for its own benefit, an Israeli human rights group charged in a court petition Monday.

In the petition filed to Israel’s Supreme Court, the Yesh Din group charges that 75 percent of the rock and gravel removed from 11 West Bank rock quarries is transferred to Israel. The group is demanding a halt to all Israeli mining activity in the West Bank.

The mining activities are illegal and executed though brutal economic exploitation of occupied territory for the economic needs of the State of Israel, the occupying power, reads the petition.

Israel, which occupied the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war, denies any violations. The West Bank is home to some 2.4 million Palestinians and around 280,000 Israeli settlers.

Citing a military document, the petition says 9 million of the 12 million tons of gravel removed from West Bank quarries yearly are sold in Israel. The petition demands that Israel stop granting West Bank concessions to Israeli companies and not renew existing licenses.

The military began issuing West Bank quarry permits to Israeli and international companies in the 1970s, but Israeli courts have never examined the permits’ legality, said Shlomy Zachary, one of the lawyers behind the petition.

International law dictates that an occupying power must manage resources in occupied territory without damaging them, he said, a principle sometimes referred to as picking the fruits without cutting down the tree.

This principle is impossible to observe in mining operations, he said. It is an irreparable situation since most of the fruits of the land are being taken and will never be able to be returned, he said.

Military spokesman Miki Galin said the approval procedures for quarries are in line with the relevant directives of international law and Israel’s interim accords with the Palestinians.

At this time the Civil Administration is carrying out staff work to evaluate the up-to-date policy regarding the operation of the quarries, he said.

Palestinians consider the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip essential parts of their future state.