Palestinians react, following an Israeli strike near a UN-run school sheltering displaced people, in Khan Younis, on Wednesday.—Reuters
Palestinians react, following an Israeli strike near a UN-run school sheltering displaced people, in Khan Younis, on Wednesday.—Reuters

JERUSALEM: Israel has approved its biggest land seizure in the occupied West Bank in more than three decades, a move criticised by activists on Wednesday as detrimental to Palestinian peace hopes.

The 12.7-square-kilometre of land in the Jordan Valley was officially declared “state property” in June, according to an official declaration revealed by the Peace Now group.

“The size of the area designated for declaration is the largest since the (1993) Oslo Accords, and the year 2024 marks a peak in the extent of declarations of state land,” Peace Now said.

The Israeli government has seized a total of 23.7 square kilometres in the West Bank since the start of the year, it said. When land is declared “state property”, Palestinians lose private ownership rights and are barred from using it, Peace Now said.

12.7 sq km of land in the Jordan Valley was officially declared ‘state property’ in June

Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Since then, it has constructed dozens of settlements across the West Bank, home to more than 490,000 Israelis, which are illegal under the international law.

About three million Palestinians reside in the West Bank. In the 1980s, Israel seized hundreds of square kilometres of land, halting seizures in 1992.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s first government resumed them in 1996.

Israel’s hard-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich announced one earlier seizure in March, when he slammed those “in Israel and the world who seek to undermine our right over” the West Bank.

Peace Now criticised Netanyahu and Smotrich, accusing them of prioritising “a handful of settlers” over resolving the political conflict or ending the war.

Israeli strikes in Gaza

Israeli forces carried out new military strikes in the southern city of Rafah amid fierce fighting with Palestinian militants overnight, residents said. At least 12 people were killed in new strikes in central and northern Gaza, health officials said.

Israeli leaders have said they are winding down the phase of intense fighting and would soon shift to more targeted operations in the nearly nine-month-war.

But fighting continued overnight in two locations at the centre of Rafah, where tanks have seized several districts and advanced further west and north of the city in recent days, and concerns about the plight of hundreds of thousands of displaced people are growing.

In Maghazi refugee camp in central Gaza, two Israeli airstrikes killed five Palestinians, health officials said. In Shejaia an airstrike killed four and wounded 17, medics said.

Another airstrike hit a car in the southern city of Deir Al-Balah, killing three people, officials said.

Published in Dawn, July 4th, 2024

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