Jerusalem: In what an Israeli rights group called the largest land grab in decades, Civil Administration in the West Bank on Sunday confiscated nearly 1000 acres of Palestinian land near Bethlehem, a move described as “counterproductive” by the US.
Calling it an “unprecedented” land grab since1980s, an Israeli rights group called “Peace Now”, which on its Twitter account describes itself as the largest Zionist Left Movement, struggling for the solution of two states, said that Israel’s Civil Administration has declared 988 acres (3,799 dunams) as the State land.
According to the Haaretz, the confiscated land belongs to five Palestinian villages between the Etzion settlement bloc and that it may be used for construction of a new Israeli settlement named Gvaot.
The group said that Israel has grabbed 988 acres (3,799 dunams) belonging to five Palestinian villages between the Etzion settlement bloc and Jerusalem, Gvaot.
BREAKING: 4,000 Dunams declared as State Land west of Bethlehem: http://t.co/rrYhPRvktU
— Peace Now (@peacenowisrael) August 31, 2014
Condemning Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ya'alon for approvingthe decalaration, Peace Now said posed obstacles in the way of two-state solution.
The group went to the extent of calling it 'a stab in the back' act meted out to the Palestinians by the Israeli government.
“By declaring another 4,000 dunams as state land, the Israeli government stabs President Abbas and the moderate Palestinian forces in the back, proving again that violent delivers Israeli concessions while nonviolence results in settlement expansion,” it said.
The declaration by Israel comes just few days after a ceasefire was agreed to by both sides last week, ending a 5-day long cross-border violence, that killed more than 2100 Palestinians.
The United States slammed the move as “counter-produtive” to the peace efforts, and urged Israel to revoke the decision, US State Department official said reportedly.
"We have long made clear our opposition to continued settlement activity," the US official said. "
This announcement, like every other settlement announcement Israel makes, planning step they approve and construction tender they issue is counterproductive to Israel's stated goal of a negotiated two-state solution with the Palestinians," he added.
Just hours before the announcement of land grab, PM Netanyahu on Sunday addressed weekly Cabinet meeting at Hof Ashkelon, and suggested that Hamas had to agree to ceasefire as it was hit very hard by the Israeli forces.
“The IDF & the ISA killed almost 1000 terrorists, struck at the heads of the orgs, at their network of tunnels and terrorist high-rises...We hit the Hamas command centers and delivered blows that Hamas has not experienced since it was founded,” said Netanyahu.
» At the same time, Hamas withdrew from all of its demands for a ceasefire, with neither time constraints nor other conditions.
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) August 31, 2014
Th move that may sour the already strained ties between the Palestine ad Israel, comes less than a week after a long-term ceasefire for 'unlimited time' was agreed by both the warring sides after 50 days of cross-border violence.
The ceasefire that came after marathon discussions held by the delegations of both sides in Cairo, took hold at 1600 GMT on Tuesday last and is said to be for 'unlimitd time'.
Israel started Operation Protective Edge on July 8 and in 50 days of violence 2,139 Palestinian people lost their lives, according to Gazan health ministry.
Israel lost 71 lives, out of which 65 were soldiers and remaining six were civilians.