Israel makes largest West Bank land seizure in three decades: Anti-settlement group

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An anti-settlement watchdog says Israel has approved the largest seizure of land in the occupied West Bank in over three decades.

The Israeli group Peace Now said Wednesday that authorities recently approved the appropriation of 12.7 square kilometers (nearly 5 square miles) of land in the Jordan Valley. The group’s data indicate it was the largest single appropriation approved since the 1993 Oslo accords at the start of the peace process.

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The land appropriation was likely to worsen already soaring tensions linked to the ongoing Israel-Hamas war in Gaza. Violence has surged in the West Bank since the start of the war, with Israel carrying out near-daily military raids that often spark deadly gunbattles with Palestinian militants.

The land seizure, which was approved late last month but only publicized on Wednesday, comes after the seizure of 8 square kilometers (roughly 3 square miles) of land in the West Bank in March and 2.6 square kilometers (1 square mile) in February.

That makes 2024 by far the peak year for Israeli land seizure in the West Bank, Peace Now said.

The parcels are contiguous and located northeast of the West Bank city of Ramallah, where the Western-backed Palestinian Authority is headquartered. By declaring them state lands, the Israeli government has opened them up to being leased to Israelis and prohibited private Palestinian ownership.

The Palestinians view the expansion of settlements in the occupied West Bank as the main barrier to any lasting peace agreement and most of the international community considers them illegal or illegitimate. Israel’s current government considers the West Bank to be the historical and religious heartland of the Jewish people and is opposed to Palestinian statehood.

Israel captured the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians want all three territories for a future state.

Israel has built well over 100 settlements across the West Bank, some of which resemble fully developed suburbs or small towns. They are home to over 500,000 Jewish settlers who have Israeli citizenship. The 3 million Palestinians in the West Bank live under seemingly open-ended Israeli military rule.

The Palestinian Authority administers parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank but is barred from operating in 60 percent of the territory, where the settlements are located.

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