Ma’an News – Landscapers in what will some day be Rawabi city, a planned community six kilometers north of Ramallah, were ordered by Israeli forces to stop planting more than 2,000 trees ordered for part of the project's "Grow for a Greener Palestine" program on Wednesday.

The soldiers told workers tree planting was illegal because the area in question was "Area C" and under Israeli civil and military control. As such, they said, there was no work permitted in the area.

Rawabi is a 200 million US dollar Qatari-backed initiative of Palestinian businessman Bashar Masri, who told the Middle East North Africa Financial Network (MENAFN) in 2007 that "The land on which Rawabi will be built is a 20 to 25 minute drive from the city of Ramallah and is located in an area under the control of the Palestinian Authority."

The area, planned since 2005, bought the land for development in 2006 and by 2007 had announced plans via the Bayti Real Estate Development Company. At the time it was expected to break ground in 2008.

Though Rawabi spokespeople could not immediately be reached for comment, locals say the tree planting was the first work done by developers on the site.
In July, Middle East Envoy for the Quartet Tony Blair visited the Bayti offices to discuss development of the Rawabi project. According to a press release from the company following the visit, "Blair spoke with clear enthusiasm about the project’s progress and committed his support in advancing its vision and its significant economic implications."

Workers were planting trees as a first stage of the project, which promises to be Palestine's first "green city."

"The vision is for Rawabi to serve as a prototype of the first Palestinian green city and ultimately, to guarantee a higher quality of life for present and future generations," public relations material for the site says.

At the site, one tree-planter, a worker from the Ramallah area, said an Israeli solder gestured to the Ateret settlement, more than four kilometers away but visible from the hilltop where Rawabi will be built. According to the worker, the soldier told the group that they were not allowed to be in the area because of the settlement.
Once the soldiers left, however, the workers continued planting the trees.


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