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Israeli settlers have built settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) with the political, military, and financial support of the government. The settlements were built for ideological, military and financial reasons. Today 38,3 percent of the land in the West Bank is beyond reach for Palestinians for a variety of reasons, including settlements, settlement-related infrastructure etc. 9.3 percent of West Bank land is under the municipal jurisdiction of the settlements.
Only a few months after the Six-Day War in 1967, the first Israeli settlement, Kfar Etzion, was established in the West Bank.
As of the end of 2008, 121 Israeli settlements have been constructed in the West Bank. In 2005, 16 settlements in the Gaza Strip, together with four settlements in the northern West Bank were evacuated by Israel as part of the “Disengagement Plan”. Prior to the evacuation 7,595 settlers controlled 38 percent of the Gaza Strip.
In addition, Jerusalem is surrounded by 12 settlements, considered by Israel as neighbourhoods within the Jerusalem municipality. According to international law, the Jerusalem neighbourhoods on the east side of the Green Line, which until 1967 belonged to Jordan (“East Jerusalem”), are built on occupied territory .
The built-up area of settlements consists of less than 3 percent of the area of the West Bank, but the area under, their municipal jurisdiction, constitutes 9,3 percent of the West Bank.
By July 2009, the number of settlers has reached about 300,000 in the West Bank and around additional 200,000 in East Jerusalem. The annual growth rate of the settlers in the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem) is 4.7 percent compared to a population growth rate of less than 2 percent inside Israel.
There are approximately 100 additional settlements, referred to in the media as “outposts” that are unrecognised even under Israeli law. The term describes a relatively new, small settlement with a few residential structures, or caravans. Often outposts are built on hilltops close to a recognised veteran settlement, although others have been established in more remote locations. These outposts fill in the space between official settlements and create big settlement blocks, which will render future evacuation more complex. 60 percent of the outposts were established under Ariel Sharon's Cabinet in 2001.
Most outposts aim at becoming recognised settlements. The Israeli Ministry of Interior does not grant them formal recognition, municipal status or building permits, however the State usually does not enforce demolition orders against outposts. Furthermore, public authorities have in some cases issued permits for connection to water and electricity networks . Residents of outposts are entitled to IDF proctection. Also inside recognised settlements structures built without building permits are to be found. Also for this construction, illegal even under Israeli domestic law, the implementation of demolition orders is exceptional.
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