Israel announces large West Bank land seizure

Israel announces large West Bank land seizure
Israel announces large West Bank land seizure

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - An elderly Palestinian Muslim man arrives to cross an Israeli checkpoint in Qalandia, in the occupied West Bank, on March 22, 2024, as worshippers head to Jerusalem to attend the second Friday Noon prayer of Islam's holy fasting month of Ramadan at the Al Aqsa mosque compound. — AFP pic

JERUSALEM, March 22 — Israel reported today the seizure of 800 hectares (1,977 acres) of land in the occupied West Bank, which activists called the largest action of its kind in decades.

Israel’s Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich declared as “state lands” the area in the northern Jordan Valley, as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Israel for Gaza war talks.

Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now said the size of the seized area is the largest since 1993’s Oslo Accords, and that “2024 marks a peak in the extent of declarations of state land”.

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Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

“While there are those in Israel and the world who seek to undermine our right over the Judea and Samaria area and the country in general, we are promoting settlement through hard work and in a strategic manner all over the country,” Smotrich said, using Israel’s term for the West Bank.

Settlements in the Palestinian territories are illegal under international law.

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Smotrich, who heads the extreme-right Religious Zionism party, lives in a settlement.

Despite opposition abroad, Israel has in recent decades build dozens of settlements across the West Bank.

They are now home to more than 490,000 Israelis, who live alongside around three million Palestinians in the territory.

The United Nations human rights chief has reported a drastic acceleration in illegal settlement building since Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza began months ago, and said this risks eliminating any likelihood of a viable Palestinian state.

Blinken has described settlement expansion as “counterproductive to reaching enduring peace” with the Palestinians. — AFP

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