Saturday, May 18, 2024

Israel declares record amount of occupied West Bank as state-owned land this year

Israel has so far in 2024 announced a record amount of West Bank as "state-owned" land, a move that could see a rapid expansion in settlement construction in the occupied territories.

According to data obtained by NGO Kerem Navot, 2,743 acres in the West Bank have been declared state-owned land, with the biggest bloc consisting of nearly 2,000 acres in the Jordan Valley.

A further 650 acres were designated state property near Abu Dis, as well as 42 acres near the Herodion National Park.

The previous record was in 1999, when just 1,285 acres were designated, according to data from the Peace Now NGO.

The data showed that between 2018 to 2023 the Civil Administration, which runs Israeli civilian affairs in the West Bank, also remapped approximately 24,000 dunams (5,900 acres) of state-owned land.

The remapping of land already categorised as state-owned often paves the way for settlement construction.

“As can be expected from this government, there has been a sharp increase in the past year in the public resources invested in the looting of thousands more dunams scattered in several areas deep in the West Bank, as well as promoting the possibility of construction on the thousands of dunams that previous governments looted for the past decades, although most of them have not yet been used,” stated Dror Etkes of Kerem Navot, according to Haaretz.

Around 700,000 Israeli settlers live in roughly 300 illegal settlements in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem, which have been constructed since they were captured by Israel in the 1967 war.

Under international law, settlement construction in an occupied territory is illegal.

In February, Peace Now reported that in 2023, settlers established at least 26 new illegal outposts in the West Bank. Ten of them were established following the outbreak of war in Gaza on 7 October.

It added that 21 Palestinian communities were forcibly displaced from their homes due to the establishment of illegal outposts, of which 16 communities were uprooted since the war broke out.

The UN’s human rights chief Volker Turk said in March that settlements had expanded by a record amount and risked eliminating any possibility of a Palestinian state.

His comments were accompanied by a 16-page report that documented 24,300 new illegal Israeli housing units in the West Bank during a one-year period through to the end of October 2023. It marked the highest on record since monitoring began in 2017.

Since 7 October there has been a major increase in Israeli settler violence and army raids across the West Bank.

According to official Palestinian sources, at least 461 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces or settlers since then.

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