PNA accuses Israel of unilateral exploration activities at the West Bank

Sep 15, 2011 12:00 AM

The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) has accused Israel of exploiting and producing oil and natural gas inside the West Bank.
"Israel has recently started unilateral exploration activities in a gas and oil field alongside the West Bank-Israel borders," said Abdullah Abdullah, Palestinian deputy settlement affairs minister. "Israel has already begun pumping gas from the field."

The Palestinian official said that 80 % of this field, located near the West Bank city of Ramallah, is owned by the Palestinians and cannot be used by Israel unilaterally.
"It's against the signed agreements," he stressed.

Abdullah noted that the Oslo accord for peace between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) states that any exploration work for natural resources should be coordinated and mutual.
"The Israeli side did not contact us in this regard," Abdullah said. "Israel is intentionally and secretly stealing the Palestinian natural resources."

According to the PNA's information, the field contains 1.5 bn barrels of oil and about 1.7 bn cm of natural gas.
Palestinian officials said that Israel recently intensified building activities in Jewish settlements in this area to keep hold of the refinery.
"The PNA will not stay cross-handed. We will take urgent procedures that may include suing Israel in international courts," Abdullah added.

Residents of Rantis village, where the Israeli exploration works are taking place, said they have detected the work a few months ago after they have noticed flaring of a gas or oil well just meters off of the borders. They also said the Israeli military has beefed up presence in the area, preventing villagers from reaching their lands and farms to keep the secrecy of the work.
"We observed drilling rigs digging six months ago, then the Israeli media said they have started producing it," said Salem Odeh, a citizen of Rantis.

Though Israeli officials did not comment on the Palestinian accusations, Givot Olam, the Israeli company in charge of the oil production, said on its website that the field was discovered in 2004.
The company also said it began oil and gas production a few months ago, adding it has built five wells so far, and is planning to construct more wells in the near future. According to Givot Olam, 1,000 barrels of oil are produced every day, and it is scheduled to develop the production by November.

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