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Jordan Valley, a strategic plain with key resources

Jordan Valley, a strategic plain with key resources

Palestinian farmlands in the village of Furush Beit Dajan in the Jordan Valley, more than half of Jordan's 10 million people are of Palestinian origin. (Photo: AFP/JAAFAR ASHTIYEH)

JERUSALEM: An agricultural plain with precious water resources, the Jordan Valley makes up nearly a third of the occupied West Bank and is in Israel's sights to annex.

Israel considers control of the plain, which sits between two desert mountain ranges, essential for its security.

If Israel presses ahead with annexation, the valley will mark the country's eastern border with Jordan.

The kingdom is just one of two Arab nations, along with Egypt, to have a peace deal with Israel.FILE PHOTO: Israeli soldiers keep guard in Jordan Valley, the eastern-most part of the Israeli-occupied West Bank that borders Jordan June 26, 2019. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

But Israel sees the sparsely populated valley as a potential buffer zone in case of ground attacks.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in January described it as "vital" to Israel, vowing his government would "apply sovereignty" to the area.

For the Palestinians, such a step would destroy "all chances of peace".

Netanyahu has said annexation would exclude Palestinian population hubs such as the city of Jericho, which risks becoming an enclave surrounded by Israeli territory under the plan.

CONTROLLED BY ISRAEL

Around 10,000 Israeli settlers live in the Jordan Valley, out of more than 450,000 in the entire West Bank, according to figures from NGOs and the Israeli government.

It is home to some 65,000 Palestinians, including around 20,000 Jericho residents, according to Israeli anti-occupation organisation B'Tselem.

Israeli settlements are viewed as illegal under international law, but Washington broke with this consensus in November and said it should be up to Israeli courts to decide on their legality.

The majority of the Jordan Valley is already administered by Israel, as it forms part of the West Bank's "Area C" as outlined in the Oslo peace accords of the 1990s.

Area C covers around 60 per cent of the West Bank, while Area B, which accounts for roughly 22 per cent, is under Palestinian civil rule but Israeli security control.

The remaining Area A, which covers the eight major towns and cities including Jericho, is under full Palestinian control.

FILE PHOTO: An Israeli soldier stands guard under an Israeli national flag during a tour made by Israeli parliament members in the Jordan Valley near the Jewish settlement of Maale Efrayim January 2, 2014. (REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)

Lying south of the Sea of Galilee and to the north of the Dead Sea, the Jordan Valley is also strategic for its agricultural land and water resources in the arid region.

But 85 per cent of the valley is inaccessible to Palestinians, according to B'Tselem, while 56 per cent is designated for Israeli military use.

Israel frequently demolishes Palestinian property built in Area C without Israeli permits, which are extremely hard to obtain.

The Jordan Valley accounts for the highest number of such demolitions in the West Bank, with some 2,400 structures levelled since 2009, according to European Union figures.​​​​​

Source: AFP/kv

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