As work on the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem Railway continues ahead of its planned March 2018 opening, residents of the Arab village of Beit Iksa are also working to establish facts on the ground.
Located in between the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramot and the town of Mevaseret Tzion, Beit Iksa lies close to the line of the new railway and the opening of Tunnel 3, the longest tunnel in Israel.
Residents of Beit Iksa have recently built a new illegal outpost right next to the entrance to Tunnel 3, potentially blocking the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem Railway’s planned route.
The discovery was first made several weeks ago by the Regavim organization, a watchdog group which monitors illegal construction and land grabs in the Arab sector.
According to Regavim, less than a month ago, heavy construction equipment and vehicles were assembled just outside of the entrance to Tunnel 3. Since then, work has begun on a massive scale to prepare a large number of plots across the hill for illegal consruction.
The construction on the hill has moved towards the entrance to the tunnel, and now has reached a point a mere 100 meters (328 feet) from Tunnel 3’s opening.
Because Beit Iksa is located just over the Green Line in Samaria, the Jerusalem municipality lacks the authority to enforce building laws around Tunnel 3. Only the Defense Ministry's Civil Administration, which carried out the Amona and Ofra demolitions, is authorized to carry out demolitions in the area.
Regavim has appealed to the Transportation Ministry and the Defense Ministry’s Civil Administration to intervene, but no actions have yet been taken. In the meantime, illegal construction around Beit Iksa has only increased.