On Sunday, Israel claimed over 1,000 acres of land in the West Bank near Bethlehem in a settlement bloc. The move by Israel is a step that might herald significant construction by Israel in the area, which would defy the demands of the Palestinians for the stopping of settlement expansion.
One group from Israel, Peace Now, which opposes settlement construction in the West Bank, has said that the Sunday action might be the single largest appropriation of land in the West Bank in decades and could change the reality dramatically in that area.
Israeli officials have said that directive to expedite the land status came following the kidnapping and murder of three teens from Israel in the area.
In July, authorities from Israel arrested a suspect who was Palestinian and is accused of being the person behind the kidnapping and subsequent killing of the three teens.
The land appropriation’s timing suggested it could be meant as a form of compensation for settlers and a form of punishment to Palestinians.
The land, which is close to Gvaot a smaller Jewish settlement to the south of Jerusalem, has officially been declared part of state land instead of land that Palestinians privately own, which clears the way for it to be potentially approved for building.
However, the mayor of Surif a Palestinian town nearby said that the land had belonged to Palestinians and told Wafa the official news agency of the Palestinians that the armed forces in Israel posted orders on Sunday that announced the seizure of land that had forest and olive trees in Surif.
The teens ’kidnapping prompted a clampdown by the Israeli military against Hamas in the West Bank. Hamas dominates Gaza and Israel said it had been behind the kidnapping.
The tensions following the kidnappings and subsequent crackdown by the military of Israel erupted into a war of 50 days that was brought to an ended last week with a ceasefire brokered by Egypt.
The appropriation of land quickly turned the attention back to the occupied West Bank.