Israel announces massive land grab in the West Bank
Israel announces plans to expropriate 400 hectares of Palestinian land in Bethlehem
The United States sees Israel’s announcement on Sunday of a land appropriation for possible settlement construction in the occupied West Bank as “counterproductive” to peace efforts and urges the Israeli government to reverse the decision, Reuters reported a State Department official as saying.
Israel laid claim to nearly a thousand acres (400 hectares) in the Etzion settlement bloc near Bethlehem, a move which an anti-settlement group termed the biggest appropriation in 30 years and a Palestinian official said would cause only more friction after the Gaza war.
“We have long made clear our opposition to continued settlement activity," the U.S. official said. “This announcement, like every other settlement announcement Israel makes, planning step they approve and construction tender they issue is counterproductive to Israel’s stated goal of a negotiated two-state solution with the Palestinians.”
“We urge the government of Israel to reverse this decision,” the official said in Washington.
Israel announced plans on Sunday to expropriate 400 hectares (988 acres) of Palestinian land in the Bethlehem area in the south of the occupied West Bank, the military said, Agence France-Presse reported.
“On the instructions of the political echelon... 4,000 dunams at (the settlement of) Gevaot is declared as state land,” the army said, adding that concerned parties have 45 days to appeal.
It said that the step stemmed from political decisions taken after the June killing of three Israeli teenagers snatched from a roadside in the same area, known to Israelis as Gush Etzion settlement bloc.
Israel has named three Palestinians from the southern West Bank city of Hebron as being behind the murders.
The Etzion settlements council welcomed Sunday's announcement and said it was the prelude to expansion of the current Gevaot settlement.
It "paves the way for the new city of Gevaot", a statement said.
Settlements watchdog Peace Now expressed alarm.
"As far as we know, this declaration is unprecedented in its scope since the 1980s and can dramatically change the reality in the Gush Etzion and the Bethlehem areas," it said.