Ramallah: Three ancient West Bank pools amid rocks are in danger of being seized by neighbouring Israeli colonists.
The Israelis living in the colony of Alfae Manachie are planning to take over the pools by force or by offering money to buy the land or rent it for a century.
The pools which date back to the Byzantine era are located in villages including Kufr Thelth, Ezbat Al Ashqar, Saniriyah and Al Mudawar of the Salfit Governorate.
Mohammad Al Shaikh who heads the villages' council told Gulf News that the colonists have repeatedly tried to seize the area under false claims that the pools are located on state-owned lands.
"The residents of the villages have lodged complaints with the Israeli courts where they proved their undisputed ownership of all the lands," he said.
Currently, the colonists have been giving tempting offers to the villagers to rent the area for a century for whatever money the villagers decide.
"Those offers have also been rejected by the villagers," he said, adding that later the colonists offered a joint tourist project with the villagers who also turned down the offer.
Al Shaikh said that the issue of the pools which can easily be turned into a key tourist attraction has been addressed with the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) which claimed there has been no budget for the project.
"At least we stand in need for the PNA manpower to clean up the pools and install a barrier around them to prevent the public from reaching the pools," he said.
"Women of the nearby villages come in the morning to the pools to wash clothes and dishes which makes the dirty situation even worse," he added.
The villages' council earlier decided to ban the women from using the pools for washing and ordered the men to prevent the women from doing so. "We are still in urgent need of cleaning the pools and [protect] them," he said.
A senior official from the Palestinian Ministry of Ruins and Antiques told Gulf News that the ministry and the PNA are fully aware of the value of the pools in terms of tourism, but the Authority does not have the budget to convert the area into a tourist attraction.