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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Wednesday, July 18, 2018

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Israel takes largest chunk of West Bank land in 30 years

The Israeli military-run Civil Administration said

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TEL AVIV, Israel - Israel on Sunday announced that it was appropriating what one anti-settlement group has said is the largest chunk of land in the occupied West Bank in 30 years, just days after signing a ceasefire with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli military-run Civil Administration said, via an announcement on Israel Radio, that it was declaring 400 hectares of land in the Etzion settlement bloc near Bethlehem "state land, on the instructions of the political echelon".

According to reports on Israel Radio, the development is in response to the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers which took place prior to the conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, during which more than 2,000 people were killed, according to the UN most of them civilian.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has reported that 2,104 people were killed in Gaza, of which 1,462 were civilians, among them 495 children and 253 women.

The figures are disputed by Tel Aviv, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this week insisting that only 52% of those killed were civilians.

Peace Now, an NGO that opposes Israeli settlement activities in the West Bank, told the Associated Press the appropriation was intended to turn an area where 10 families now live adjacent to a Jewish seminary into a permanent settlement.

Long-standing plans for the area by Israel suggest it may soon be home to more than 1,000 Israeli families. Last year, Tel Aviv invited bids for the building of more than 1,000 homes on the now-appropriated land.

The land seizure is the largest by Israel since the 1980s, Peace Now has said. Israel's settlement activities have attracted widespread international criticism and they are not recognised by international law as they take land that is meant to form an independent Palestinian state in future peace talks.

A spokesperson for the Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, called on Israel to cancel the settlement plans, insisting that it will inflame tensions after the Gaza conflict and lead to more instability.

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