Palestinians have access to just 13% of the land around Bethlehem due to Israeli military zones, a barrier, and settlements, a UN report charges just days before Pope Benedict is due to visit the holy city. “Bethlehem’s potential for residential and industrial expansion and development has been reduced, as well as its access to natural resources,” the report says; Israel responded that the UN agency has overstepped, the BBC notes.
A foreign ministry spokesman hadn’t seen the reports details, but accused the UN agency of disseminating “distorted information” in the past. Israel occupied West Bank in a 1967 war, and its settlement activity there is considered illegal internationally—a claim Israel disputes. A separate report, meanwhile, says Israeli settlements are being built at the fastest rate since 2003.