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Israel declares attachment of 800 hectares more land in the West Bank for settlement

Israel declares attachment of 800 hectares more land in the West Bank for settlement

Amid the ongoing bombardment in Gaza and its reverberations in the West Bank, with sporadic shelling targeting Palestinian citizens, Israel's Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich has declared the attachment of 800 hectares (1,977 acres) of land in the occupied West Bank as Israel’s property to expand settlements.

This announcement, made on Friday during United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken's visit to Israel, suggests that the US is complicit in Israel's settlement expansion into Palestinian territory, despite openly opposing it.

Smotrich emphasized the Israeli government's unwavering commitment to advancing settlement construction in the West Bank, despite mounting international opposition. He framed the decision within a broader narrative of reclaiming what Israel refers to as Judea and Samaria, using biblical terminology to assert historical and cultural ties to the land.

The designation of this vast tract of land in the Jordan Valley as state-owned follows a similar move involving 300 hectares (740 acres) in the Maale Adumim region, a move vehemently opposed by Palestinians who see it as an encroachment on territory they envision as part of a future independent state.

This announcement comes on the heels of a significant policy shift by the United States, which last month declared Israel's expansion of settlements in the West Bank to be inconsistent with international law. This stance marks a return to a longstanding US policy position, reversing a departure made during the previous administration of Donald Trump. The change aligns the US with much of the international community, which considers Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory captured in the 1967 Middle East war to be illegal.

While Israel disputes this characterization, citing historical and religious connections to the land, critics, including the UN Human Rights Chief Volker Turk, have condemned settlement expansion as a violation of international law, even labelling it as a war crime.

Palestinian authorities have condemned the land seizure and the continued expansion of settlements. The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs characterized the move as part of an "official policy racing against time to annex the West Bank," asserting that it undermines the prospects for a viable Palestinian state.

Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now echoed these sentiments, denouncing the seizure as the largest since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. They described the timing of the announcement, coinciding with Blinken's visit, as a deliberate provocation aimed at challenging international criticism.

Efforts to advance a two-state solution, with an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel, have faced numerous obstacles, chief among them being the expansion of Israeli settlements. Despite international pressure for a return to negotiations, progress towards Palestinian statehood remains elusive, with the enduring conflict showing little sign of resolution.

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TAGS:HamasFree PalestineIsrael Palestine ConflictIsrael War on Gaza
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