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Israel Seizes West Bank Land Amidst Gaza War Talks

March 24, 2024
Gaza City’s Rimal neighborhood on Oct. 10. Picture Credit: Mohammed Alaloul/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Israel announced on 22 March the seizure of eight square kilometers (1,977 acres) of land in West Bank’s Jordan Valley region. Activists call this the largest action of its kind in decades, indicating a significant objective in Israel’s plans for settlement expansion in the occupied territories.

The Israel Broadcasting Authority disclosed that the area is, “for the construction of hundreds of residential units, in addition to an area designated for industry, commerce, and employment.”

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, head of Israel’s extreme-right Religious Zionism party, stated, “This declaration will allow the continuation of building and strengthening the Jordan Valley. At a time when there are those who seek to undermine our rights in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and the country in general, we are strengthening settlements through serious and strategic work throughout the country.”

Israel has continued to build settlements across the West Bank over the years, with over 490,000 Israelis now residing in the settlements alongside around three million Palestinians.

The latest announcement comes on the 168th day of the Israeli war on Gaza, underlining Israel’s intent to strengthen its presence in the West Bank, despite the presence of illegal settlements in Palestinian territories and the ongoing international scrutiny and criticism.

The United Nations human rights chief, Volker Turk, objected to the illegal settlement building and warned that the continuation of building settlements as Israel’s war on Gaza goes on jeopardizes the prospect of a viable Palestinian state.

Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, who is currently in Tel Aviv for talks on the Gaza conflict, has reiterated the US stance against settlement expansion, branding it as “counterproductive to reaching enduring peace” with the Palestinians.

Amid ongoing discussions on the Gaza conflict, Israel’s latest seizure of land in the West Bank highlights the intricate and contentious dynamics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, where the expansion of settlements poses a major impediment to achieving a sustainable resolution.

The latest United Nations (UN) resolution, led by the United States, demanded an immediate ceasefire during Ramadan, the release of all hostages, and allowing the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza.

Of the 15 council members, 11 voted for the resolution, Guyana abstained, and Russia, China, and Algeria vetoed. The UN Security Council turned down the resolution, on 22 March, in response to the vetoes.

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