NGO says Israel seeking settlement move to Palestinian land

The United States said late Thursday it was “deeply concerned” by the Israeli plan

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Israel is working to transplant an illegal West Bank settlement scheduled for demolition to Palestinian land nearby, effectively legalizing the rogue outpost, an Israeli NGO said Friday.

“They have started the process of taking land,” Hagit Ofran, of settlement watchdog Peace Now, told AFP.

An advertisement bearing the crest of Israel’s civil administration, a unit of the defense ministry in the occupied West Bank, appeared in Palestinian daily al-Quds on Thursday listing several plots of land near the Amona settlement, north of Ramallah.

It said that they are considered to be the property of absentee Palestinian owners and therefore liable to seizure. Anyone claiming legal ownership is invited to lodge objections within 30 days of the ad’s publication, it said.

“The civil administration has opened a process where it is announcing that it intends to make use of these properties which are near Amona,” Ofran said. “It can be assumed that the takeover's purpose is to allow the relocation of the settlers of Amona from the land they are currently occupying,” a Peace Now statement added.

The United States said late Thursday it was “deeply concerned” by the Israeli plan. “This would represent an unprecedented and troubling step that's inconsistent with prior Israeli legal opinion and counter to longstanding Israeli policy to not seize private Palestinian land for Israeli settlements,” State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau told reporters.

The international community considers all settlements built in the West Bank – including annexed east Jerusalem – to be illegal. Amona, home to about 40 families, was built on lands privately owned by Palestinians, who successfully petitioned Israeli courts for the outpost’s removal.

After repeated delays, the Supreme Court ordered the settlers’ eviction and the demolition of their homes by December 25 this year. The site being eyed for their relocation is just a few meters (yards) from the present location.

“In order to compensate a small group of settlers who stole private Palestinian lands, the Israeli government itself is now stealing private lands as well,” the Peace Now statement said.

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