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Abbas warns Israel’s West Bank land grab would inflame situation
Monday September 1, 2014 8:45 PM, IINA

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas warned that Israel’s decision to seize nearly 400 hectares of land in the occupied West Bank will lead to more instability and will only inflame the situation after the war in Gaza.

He also called on Israel to cancel the appropriation, according to presidential spokesman Abu Rdainah. “Today’s announcement clearly represents Israel’s deliberate intent to wipe out any Palestinian presence on the land and to wilfully impose a de facto one-state solution,” senior Palestine Liberation official Hanan Ashrawi said.

Israel announced the massive land appropriation on Sunday in the Etzion settlement bloc near Bethlehem just days after Gaza ceasefire. A Palestinian official said the latest land grab by Israel would cause only more friction after the Gaza war that left more than 2,000 Palestinians dead and over 10,000 injured. This is the largest Israeli land grab in 30 years.

Mayor of the town of Surif Ahmad Lafi, said an Israeli army forces accompanied by an Israeli Civil Administration official arrived in the town on Saturday early morning and posted orders to seize 3799 dunums, planted with olives and forest trees, in Surif and the nearby villages of al-Jaba’a and Wadi Fukin.

The land belongs to several families in the area. Israeli media sources said the procedure is aimed at expanding the nearby settlement bloc of Gush Etzion, illegally built on Palestinian-owned land.

Latter on Sunday, the municipality of the town of Ash-Shuyukh said Israel handed over a military order to the municipality of the village of Sair, informing them of their intentions to seize 12 dunums of the village’s land, and that the owners may file a petition against the order within 7 days.

Ash-Shuyukh Municipality added that the owners have been prevented from reaching their land for 20 years by Israel in an effort to expand the nearby illegal settlement of Asfar. Asfar settlers have previously assaulted the owners; seized around 80 dunums of their land and encircled them with barbed wires to expand their illegal settlement.

Meanwhile, the United States has urged Israel to reverse its, a move anti-settlement activists termed the largest land grab in 30 years.

A US State Department official called the announcement as "counterproductive to Israel's stated goal of a negotiated two-state solution with the Palestinians. We urge the government of Israel to reverse this decision," the official said in Washington.

Peace Now group, which opposes Israeli settlement activities in the West Bank, territory the Palestinians seek for a state, said the appropriation was meant to turn a site where 10 families now live adjacent to a Jewish seminary into a permanent settlement.

“As far as we know, this declaration is unprecedented in its scope since the 1980s and can dramatically change the reality in the Gush Etzion and the Bethlehem areas,” Peace Now said.

“Peace Now views this declaration as proof that Prime Minister Netanyahu does not aspire for a new ‘Diplomatic Horizon’, but rather he continues to put obstacles to the two-state vision and promote a one-state solution.

"By declaring another 4,000 dunams as state land, the Israeli government stabs (Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas) and the moderate Palestinian forces in the back, proving again that violence delivers Israeli concessions while non-violence results in settlement expansion,” it said.

Construction of a major settlement at the location, known as "Gevaot", has been mooted by Israel since 2000.

Last year, the government invited bids for the building of 1,000 housing units at the site.Peace Now said the land seizure was the largest announced by Israel in the West Bank since the 1980s and that anyone with ownership claims had 45 days to appeal.

A local Palestinian mayor said Palestinians owned the tracts and harvested olive trees on them.
Israel has come under international criticism over its settlement activities, which most countries regard as illegal under international law and a major obstacle to the creation of a viable Palestinian state in any future peace deal.

Israel has said construction at Gevaot would not constitute the establishment of a new settlement because the site is officially designated a neighborhood of an existing one, Alon Shvut, several kilometres down the road.

About 500,000 Israelis live among 2.4 million Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, territory that Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

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