[QODLink]
Middle East
Israel seizes West Bank land
Official says expansion of settlement planned on land near Efrat.
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2009 16:39 GMT
Palestinians and peace activists have protested against Israeli settlements [GALLO/GETTY]

Israel has taken control of a large area near a prominent settlement in the Palestinian West Bank, paving the way for a possible construction of 2,500 settlement homes, officials have said.

Oded Revivi, the mayor of Efrat, said on Monday that the Israeli military has designated 425 acres near the settlement of about 1,600 families south of Jerusalem, as so-called
state land two weeks ago.

Revivi said Efrat plans to build 2,500 homes on that land, but government approval would still be needed before construction begins, a process that could take years.

Eventually, Efrat is to grow to a city of 30,000 people, he said.

The settlement is situated in one of three settlement blocs Israel expects to hold on to in any final peace deal with the Palestinians.

Revivi said nine appeals, eight of which were rejected and one was upheld, had been filed by Palestinian landowners.

'Sticking point'

Al Jazeera's Nour Odeh, reporting from Ramallah, West Bank, said the "confiscation [of the land], which by international law is deemed illegal, has been greeted with condemnation among Palestinian circles".

"We've seen statements from these leaderships describing this measure as condemnable, calling on the international community to take a firm stance," she said.

"... This will undoubtedly be a major sticking point when the US peace envoy George Mitchell visits the region towards the end of the month.

"This is what [the] Palestinians will be concentrating on. Already we've heard from the Palestinian president's office that there will be no negotiations until all settlement activities in the occupied West Bank including east Jerusalem stops."

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, has warned that continued settlement expansion would cripple peace talks.

His aides said recently that peace talks can only resume after a settlement freeze.

Expansion could also create friction with the US, as Mitchell, the US Middle East envoy, has long called on Israel to halt construction in settlements.

Nearly 290,000 Israelis currently live in West Bank settlements.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
Featured on Al Jazeera
Swathes of the British electorate continue to show discontent with all things European, including immigration.
Astronomers have captured images of primordial galaxies that helped light up the cosmos after the Big Bang.
Critics assail British photographer's portrayal of indigenous people, but he says he's highlighting their plight.
As Western stars re-release 1980s charity hit, many Africans say it's a demeaning relic that can do more harm than good.
Featured
No one convicted after 58 people gunned down in cold blood in 2009 in the country's worst political mass killing.
While hosting the World Internet Conference, China tries Tiananmen activist for leaking 'state secrets' to US website.
Once staunchly anti-immigrant, some observers say the conservative US state could lead the way in documenting migrants.
NGOs say women without formal documentation are being imprisoned after giving birth in Malaysia.
Public stripping and assault of woman and rival protests thereafter highlight Kenya's gender-relations divide.