These occupy approximately 790 hectares of land and consist of 20 Israeli settlements. Nine of these settlements are located on either Terra rossa or brown rendzina soil, which are prime agricultural soils. There is a continuous concern about the continued expansion of the Israeli settlements in the Bethlehem District. One of the threatened areas is the forested mountain of Abu Ghunaim, east of Bethlehem City .
During the Israeli occupation, the urban centers became overpopulated with rural migrants. This migration is mainly caused by the drop in water supply and expropriation of cultivable land in favor of Israeli settlements. This movement proved taxing to the insufficiently developed infrastructure. It has also encroached on the built heritage of the old centers with haphazard construction.
The Israeli settlements, the "security zones" and bypass roads to service the settlements, are expanding at the expense of the agricultural land of the villages, thus burdening the landscape. For the Palestinians, this represents a danger to the area's resources and complicates the management of tourist sites and their accessibility and prevents planned expansion.
Currently, the mobility of the local population is seriously hampered by the closing off Jerusalem to all West Bank residents. This new situation is presently causing severe hardships as Bethlehem and Jerusalem form a natural cultural, economic and religious unity. This situation also changed the traditional transportation routes further exasperating the district traffic situation and traffic systems.