Less than a week after a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas halted the bloody 50-day war in Gaza, Israel announced it is appropriating almost 1,000 acres of land in the West Bank for Israeli settlers.
Israeli officials declared a 990-acre region as "state land," effectively confiscating it from Palestinians who live nearby and claim ownership. The land is west of Bethlehem, in an area with several established settlements. (Video via Al Jazeera)
Peace Now, an Israeli group opposed to further settlements, called the move the biggest land grab the country has undertaken in over 30 years.
Israeli officials say the appropriation was prompted, at least in part, by the murder of three Israeli teenagers back in June. Their deaths lead to the recent Gaza conflict, and The New York Times suggests Sunday's announcement could be seen as a punishment for the Palestinians. (Video via CNN)
Naturally, Palestinian authorities condemned the decision as illegal and provocative. A spokesman for the Palestine Liberation Organization told reporters it would "'wipe out any Palestinian presence on the land' and impose a 'de-facto one-state solution'"
But Israel's also facing criticism from some of its allies ‹ a U.S. State Department spokesperson called the appropriation "counterproductive to Israel's stated goal of a negotiated two-state solution."
Israeli settlement in the occupied Palestinian territories is widely viewed as being a violation of international law, and one of the main roadblocks to a long-term peace deal in the region. The U.S., U.N. and the E.U. have repeatedly condemned the settlement expansions, but Israeli officials believe the land will ultimately become theirs in any final peace deal.
The Wall Street Journal quotes one housing minister calling land appropriations "an appropriate Zionist response to the Palestinian terrorist government."
And a commerce minister told the BBC: "I think that stopping anyone from living in our land is a profound mistake. ... Why should I stop building on my land? It's my own."
Israeli officials say the appropriation is still open to legal review. Any Palestinian landowners in the region now have 45 days to submit their objections to an Israeli court before their lands will be seized.
This video contains images from Getty Images and the U.N.
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