New app to crack down on illegal Palestinian West Bank construction
Samaria Regional Council launches new communal watchdog app enabling settlers to report instances of illegal Palestinian construction of haphazard or permanent structures: 'We see illegal building of almost every type. Sometimes we are shocked by the audacity,' says council head Yossi Dagan.
The Samaria Regional Council has launched an application aimed at preventing the construction of illegal Palestinian homes in the West Bank, as residents attempt to ensure that it is not only illegal Israeli outposts that are evacuated.
The issue of buildings and structures lacking government approval has increasingly come to the fore in Israeli discourse following a court-ordered evacuation of Amona earlier this year.
The new communal watchdog, named after the council, was launched after residents complained that Palestinians were building haphazard illegal structures throughout the area which, they claim, have resulted in security hazards on several occasions.
The residents also complained about what they described as hostile takeovers of areas within the municipal boundaries of the council.
Yoav Hagar, a resident of Nofim in the West Bank, has already used the application to notify users of illegal construction.
“Three days ago on my way to the community of Revava, I noticed a few temporary structures next to the community. I travel on the same road every day and suddenly these structures pop up. I went on the application and I reported it,” said Hagar. “I don’t know for certain that they are illegal but this way the information is transferred to the council and they are supposed to check it.”
Head of the council Yossi Dagan said that the application as a monitoring method had become absolutely essential given the breadth of illegal Palestinian construction.
“Unfortunately we are suffering from illegal construction almost throughout the entire area. We see illegal building of almost every type. Sometimes we are shocked by the audacity,” he explained.
“We have decided that as another tool to impose order in the area we will enable our residents to act as our eyes and report illegal construction, for the good of the council and for the good of the State of Israel...We are pleased that the residents are cooperating.”
Ovad Arad, who manages activities of the Regavim organization—which works “to ensure responsible, legal, accountable and environmentally friendly use of Israel’s national lands and the return of the rule of law to all areas and aspects of the land and its preservation”—praised the new initiative as a counter mechanism to the phenomenon of unauthorized construction..
“Every day, throughout the entire year the residents of our territory are in the areas where we suspect environmental damage is being caused, where illegal construction is taking place and where invasion of state’s land is occurring,” Arad said.
“Tens of thousands of monitors on social media also constitute eyes on the ground for us and they send us reports. Naturally, in Judea and Samaria, the enforcement is weaker than the rest of the country. So that’s why the application that the Samaria Regional Council launched will synchronize us with acts uploaded by the residents. It is an important and significant step in the preservation of the land and its sites.”