Israel has announced it is to take over 400 hectares of land in the West Bank sparking criticism from both the United States and the Palestinians.
Israeli officials said it was a response to the kidnapping and killing of three Jewish teenagers in the area in June.
It’s the biggest land appropriation in the West Bank in decades.
Yariv Oppenhiemer of the anti-settlement organisation “Peace Now” said:
“This new declaration of expansion of settlements by the Israeli government is very significant. We do not remember such a big announcement since the last one or two decades. This is a stab in the back for Abbas and the moderate people in the Palestinian authority instead of strengthening the Palestinian authority versus Hamas.”
The takeover of the land near Bethlehem clears the way for possibly more settlement building but the move has even divided the Israeli government
“Basically we are against any swift changes within the West Bank right now, as we need to go back to some kind of process there,” said Yair Lapid, Israeli Finance minister.
A Palestinian official said the announcement could only cause more friction after the ending of the latest conflict in Gaza.
The US has described it as counterproductive to peace efforts and has urged the Israeli government to reverse its decision.