The colony of Gilo was constructed in 1971 on lands belonging to the towns of Beit Jala and Beit Safafa. The present population of Gilo exceeds 40,000. Gilo colony was greatly expanded in the southern and western direction, creeping on more Beit Jala lands. Nowadays, Gilo settlement is considered one of the largest Israeli settlements that have been built in the West Bank, with a total area of 2,738 dunums.
Har Gilo Settlement: which was established by Israel in 1972 is located on the Palestinian citizens’ lands in Beit Jala city and Al Walaja village which are located west of Bethlehem city. In 2003, Har Gilo settlement covered an area of 271 dunums of land confiscated from its Palestinian owners, and is inhabited today by more than 460 Israeli settlers. In November 2000, an Israeli plan to expand the urban area and the total area of the settlement was prepared; however, the plan was not implemented until 2004, at the time when the illegal process of expansion was ratified. Later, groups of settlers living in the settlement, under the protection of the Israeli occupation army, seized over 143 dunums of Palestinian land and surrounded it by barbed wire, as a result, the total area of Har Gilo settlement became 414 dunums.
In addition, it should be noted that the Segregation Wall plan around Har Gilo settlement seized additional areas of about 95 dunums of land located between the current settlement boundaries and the racist Segregation Wall path, which is under construction.
The colony of Giv'at Hamatos was created in 1992 on 255 dunums of land belonging to the Orthodox Church in Beit Jala. It presently includes 280 mobile houses which were built to absorb Jews brought from Ethiopia. The Israeli government plans to expand this colony to 990 dunums and build an additional 3,600 housing units on an area of approximately 1,010 dunums belonging to the Palestinian village of Beit Safafa. The expansion of Giv'at Hamatos will also complete the wall of colonies which surrounds Jerusalem from the south.
By-Pass Road 60
This road is part of an Israeli scheme to tear Beit Jala into fragments, and connect the colonies of the southern part of the West Bank (Gush Etzion Bloc) with the colonies in the north in order to facilitate the movement of Israeli settlers and to link the Israeli settlements with each other. In Beit Jala city, the Israeli government constructed road no. 60, which links Gush Etzion settlements, south-west of Bethlehem city, and Har Homa settlement with Jerusalem settlements, as well as the tunnel road which is a section of the road no. 60 and which runs through the western part of Beit Jala city and its agricultural lands. This section consists of a bridge that passes over the city agricultural territories in addition to two tunnels at the beginning and the end of this section of the street. Moreover, the Israeli bypass road no. 436 cuts through Beit Jala lands, and the two Israeli bypass roads; no. 60 and no. 436, extend for 5km on the city territories.
Bir 'Ona Neighborhood Issue
Bir 'Ona is a Palestinian neighborhood of around 1,000, located to the south-west of Beit Jala. It fell under Israeli occupation in 1967. There has always been an Israeli intention to annex Bir 'Ona which comprises 29% of Beit Jala total area to Jerusalem boundaries. Thus, in 1989, this Palestinian neighborhood encountered an unprecedented wave of house demolition. Approximately, 25% of Bir 'Ona houses received demolition orders under the pretext of building "without permits". A systematic scheme was planned by the Municipality of Jerusalem compelling the house owners to apply for building permits from the municipality in an attempt to annex Bir 'Ona boundaries to Jerusalem. This colonization aim was not achieved until January 22nd 1999, when the Jerusalem Municipality declared a decision to annex Bir 'Ona to its borders by putting the village under its jurisdiction and levying "Arnona" tax on its Palestinian inhabitants.
The most threatening consequences of establishing the buffer zone around Jerusalem is the annexation of Palestinian neighborhoods such as Beir ‘Ona, Thus, as discussed above, Israeli attempts to change the geographical and the demographical shapes of the holy city either by changing its boundaries or separating it from its Palestinians neighborhoods will not change-in any way the status of the city as an occupied territory. However, any final talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis over Jerusalem will indeed be further complicated by the violations committed by the Israeli government in creating more facts on the ground to reinforce its diktat over the negotiations with Palestinians.