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Za’tara (Za’atara/Zatarah), Bethlehem gov.

Zoom:range: 0-17
Palestinian     Former Palestinian (ethnically cleansed)
Israeli Jewish
Lebanese     Syrian     Jordanian   Egyptian   Saudi   unclassified

Latitude: 31.675042 (31° 40' 30'' N)
Longitude: 35.257101 (35° 15' 26'' E)
Type of place: Palestinian town in West Bank


Za'tara is a Palestinian town in Bethlehem Governorate located 6km SE of Bethlehem City. Za'tara is bordered by open spaces and nature reserves to the east, Ash Shawawra village to the north, Beit Ta'mir village and bypass road no. 356 to the west, and Jubbet adh Dhib village to the south. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), the total population of Za'tara in 2007 was 6,280. There are 1,046 households living in 1,080 housing units.

Impact of the Israeli Occupation

According to the Oslo Interim Agreement, 68 dunums (0.9 percent of the total area of the town) were classified as area A, and 3410 dunums (44 percent of the total area of the town) were classified as area B. As for the remaining part of Za'tara lands, 2524 dunums (32.6 percent of the total area of the town) were classified as area C. It is worth mentioning that most of the agricultural lands and open spaces are located in B and C areas.

Geopolitical Land classification of Za’tara
Land Classification Area in dunums Pct of Total village area
Area A 68 0.9
Area B 3,410 44
Area C 2,524 32.6
Nature Reserve 1,746 22.5
Total 7,748 100
Source: ARIJ-GIS Unit, 2009

Israeli settlement activities in Za'tara town

After the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in June 1967, the Israeli authorities confiscated large areas of Palestinian lands for the construction of Israeli settlements, bypass roads and military bases. Za'tara town, like many other Palestinian towns and villages, was exposed to Israeli illegal procedures of violation and expansion, where 20 dunums of the town land were confiscated for the construction of El David settlement, and another 10 dunums for the construction of an Israeli military base, to protect the settlement and other nearby settlements.

A few years ago, the Israeli occupation authorities constructed the Israeli bypass road number 356 which confiscates a part of Za'tara town western territories, in order to connect a number of Israeli settlements to each other. The bypass road No. 356, which was constructed in order to serve the Israeli settlements located east of the governorate, extends from (Har Homa) Abu Ghneim settlement, north of Bethlehem, towards the east, linking both settlements of El David and Tekoa, and the Israeli military base, with Gush Etzion settlements, west of Bethlehem city, to the Israeli settlements inside the Green Line. The Israeli bypass road number 356, which cuts through Za'tara town territories, is 2.7km long (out of 19km of the total length of the bypass road).

Furthermore, on 20 May 2004, the Israeli occupation authorities issued an Israeli military order No. 04/02/5, which is the first of its kind to be issued in the occupied Palestinian territories, and gives the Israeli army the right to confiscate lands through declaring the confiscated lands 'lands for public use,' which have been used for the construction of an extensive bypass road network in the Palestinian territories. This order, which comes within a series of Israeli military orders issued between the years 1967 and 1969, and the law No. 321 [Acquisition through declaring the lands 'for Public Use' by military order no. 321], which also came in order to complete what was stated by the Israeli military order no. 02/02/C, gives the right to confiscate Palestinian lands, south-east of Bethlehem, 'for military purposes', for the establishment of a new bypass road (Za'tara bypass road number 3157). Both orders came in order to create a kind of territorial contiguity between the Israeli settlements south-east of Bethlehem with the settlements located in the western area of the governorate, and Jerusalem city. It is worth mentioning that Za'tara bypass road extends by 8km on the territories of Beit Sahour and Bethlehem cities, Za'tara, Ras El Wad, Tuqu', As Sawahra and Al Furdeis villages.

The Israeli army used the above law, mainly, to establish a road network, for the army, inside the occupied Palestinian territories, as well as providing alternative roads for the Israeli settlers, away from Palestinian localities in the occupied territories.

Furthermore, the Israeli army has adopted, although altered, the acquisition law for public uses from the Jordanian law: Law no. 2 of the year 1953. This law gave the government the right of acquisition of private land for the public good, but the government was obligated to declare its intentions prior to the acquisition, by publishing the specific details of the confiscation in official newspapers, and providing 15 days to the landowners to object against the acquisition order, before reapplying the acquisition request to the Council of Ministers and the King for final approval. After the final approval, the landowners are fully compensated depending on the value of property / land confiscated on the date of the first announcement.

Israel has manipulated the laws for its own purposes by introducing some amendments to the Jordanian acquisition law, where the law enforcement has become subjected to the approval of the Israeli military only. The amendments also intended to isolate the powers of civil courts from reviewing any decision related to acquisition or the right of compensation for the affected party. However, the Objections Committee, which is composed of only two Israeli soldiers, is considered the only official and authorized body to consider any objections, about the acquisition law, submitted by the owners of targeted lands. The following items explain the most notable amendments introduced to the Jordanian law of acquisition:

  1. The implementation of the acquisition law was assigned to the government, according to the Jordanian law; however, the Israelis have introduced an amendment to the law where its enforcement came under the authority of the occupied territories’ military commander, who is responsible for appointing a military body for its implementation. Therefore, the body who implements this law is only accountable to itself.
  2. According to the Israeli amendment of the law; the Israeli military order no. 569 allows the military party, designated by the Israeli military commander of the occupied territories for implementing the law of public acquisition, to take acquisition procedures without announcement and without the approval of any official body, besides the Israeli military commander of the occupied territories.
  3. The objection committee, composed of two Israeli soldiers, is the only body authorized to consider the requests for compensation (if applicable) or objections submitted by the landowners.
  4. The Israelis added a new section which allows the army to use force against those objecting to the acquisition order, in addition to imposing a 5 years prison punishment, an expensive fine, or both.


The principal families of the town: Masa'da, Al Wahsh, Abu Amreiyah, Al Baw, Ath Thweib, and Az Zwateen.

Notable residents


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