Israel announces largest West Bank land seizure in decades

AFP , Friday 22 Mar 2024

Israel reported Friday the seizure of 800 hectares (1,977 acres) of land in the occupied West Bank, which activists called the largest action of its kind in decades.

Bezalel Smotrich
Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich. AP


Israel's Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich declared as "state lands" the area in the northern Jordan Valley, as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Israel for Gaza war talks.

Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now said the size of the seized area is the largest since 1993's Oslo Accords, and that "2024 marks a peak in the extent of declarations of state land".

Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

"While there are those in Israel and the world who seek to undermine our right over the Judea and Samaria area and the country in general, we are promoting settlement through hard work and in a strategic manner all over the country," Smotrich said, using Israel's term for the West Bank.

Settlements in the Palestinian territories are illegal under international law.

Smotrich, who heads the extreme-right Religious Zionism party, lives in a settlement.

Despite opposition abroad, Israel has in recent decades built dozens of settlements across the West Bank.

They are now home to more than 490,000 Israelis, who live among around three million Palestinians in the occupied territory.

The United Nations human rights chief has reported a drastic acceleration in illegal settlement building since Israel's war on Gaza began six months ago, noting that this risks eliminating any likelihood of a viable Palestinian state.

Blinken has described settlement expansion as "counterproductive to reaching enduring peace" with the Palestinians.

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