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Israel announces largest Palestinian land grab in over 30 years

An Israeli settlement watchdog reports that 2024 marks 'the peak' of land seizures, with a total of about 2,370 hectares seized this year
The Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim in the occupied West Bank on 28 June 2024 (AFP)

The Israeli government has seized about 2,370 hectares of land in the occupied West Bank this year alone, culminating in the largest land grab in over three decades, according to an Israeli settlement watchdog.

The anti-settlement group Peace Now reported on Wednesday that Israeli authorities have declared 3,138 acres (1,269 hectares) of land in the Jordan Valley as “state land”, paving the way for the construction of hundreds of settlement housing units.

According to the watchdog, the seizure, which was approved last month but only published on Wednesday, is the largest land grab since the 1993 Oslo Accords.

The move follows a series of similar land seizures across the occupied West Bank, with 1,976 acres (800 hectares) seized in the Jordan Valley in March and a further 652 acres (264 hectares) between the settlements of Maale Adumim and Kedar in February.

“2024 marks the peak in the extent of declarations of state land,” Peace Now said in a statement.

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The group estimated that Israel declared 5,856 acres (2,370 hectares) of the West Bank as state land since the beginning of 2024.

A plan to annex the West Bank

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich has overseen a surge in Palestinian land seizures and settlement expansions since gaining sweeping authority over settlement planning in the occupied West Bank.

Last month, at a conference for his National Religious Party-Religious Zionism party, Smotrich admitted that Israel was advancing a plan to annex the West Bank “without the government being accused of annexing it”. 

In a recording obtained by Peace Now, Smotrich stated that the land seizures in 2024 “are roughly 10 times the average in previous years". He estimated that "by the end of the year, between 10,000 and 15,000 additional dunams [1,000 to 1,500 hectares] will be declared [as state lands]”.

In May, Smotrich instructed Israeli government ministries to prepare to accommodate an additional 500,000 settlers in the West Bank, including the development of infrastructure and services in settlements and outposts. 

In February, Peace Now reported that in 2023, settlers established at least 26 new illegal outposts in the West Bank, with 10 of them following the outbreak of war in Gaza on October 7.

Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem are illegal under international law. 

Despite this, more than 700,000 settlers are thought to live in over 200 settlements and outposts across the territory.

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