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Israel takes 234 hectares in biggest grab
March 16, 2016
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WEST BANK CITY: Israel has appropriated large tracts of land in the West Bank near the Dead Sea and the Palestinian city of Jericho, Israeli Army Radio said on Tuesday.

Israel’s Peace Now movement, which tracks and opposes Israeli settlement in territory captured in a 1967 war, said the reported seizure of 579 acres (234 hectares) represented the largest land confiscation in the West Bank in recent years.

The group said plans for expanding nearby Jewish settlements and building tourism and other commercial facilities in the area were already on Israel’s drawing board.

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat called in a statement on the international community to press Israel to stop land confiscations. Most countries view Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and occupied Jerusalem as illegal and an obstacle to peace.

Asked about Army Radio’s report, Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon’s office said in an email to Reuters: “We are not relating to the issue.”

Photos of a de facto Israeli confiscation notice — a Hebrew map and accompanying documents titled “A declaration of government property” — were tweeted, however, by the Palestine Liberation Organisation on Tuesday.

Dated March 10, it listed 2,342 dunams, or 579 acres, and carried the signature of an official identified on the map as Israel’s “supervisor of government property and abandoned property in Judea and Samaria,” Hebrew terms for the West Bank.

Such an appropriation would be the largest since August 2014, and larger than the 380 acre (154 hectares) area that Israel first said in January it planned to designate as government property near the Dead Sea. News of those plans drew international condemnation at the time.

Israel says it intends to keep large settlement blocs in any future peace agreement with the Palestinians. Palestinians, who seek to establish a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, say they fear Israeli settlement expansion will deny them a viable country.

Palestinians have cited Israeli settlement activity as one of the factors behind the collapse of US-brokered peace talks in 2014, and a surge of violence over the past five months has dimmed hopes negotiations could be revived any time soon.

Since October, Israeli forces have killed at least 184 Palestinians. Most others were shot dead during violent protests.

on Monday, Israeli forces shot dead three Palestinians in the southern occupied West Bank.

Palestinians dispute Israeli army’s allegations that two Palestinians opened fire at pedestrians waiting at a bus stop at the entrance of Kiryat Arba near Hebron and troops guarding the area responded and shot them dead.

The Palestinian health ministry named the victims as Qassem Abu Ouda, 30, and Amir Juneidi, 22, from Hebron, and Yousef Taraya, 18, from the nearby village of Bani Naim.

Hebron has long been a source of tensions, with several hundred Israeli settlers living in the heart of the city under heavy military guard among around 200,000 Palestinians.

Recently, Israeli forces have raided the West Bank offices of Palestine Today television and arrested its manager over allegations of inciting violence, Israel’s Shin Bet internal security agency said.

The overnight operation targeting the station’s Ramallah offices was the latest attempt to silence Palestinian broadcasters Israel believes are fuelling a five-month wave of violence.

Agencies
 

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