Record year for Israeli settlements with new approval for Jordan Valley units

Israel seized 800 hectares in the West Bank area, after watchdog and UN said illegal settlements were expanding more than ever

MEE staff

The Israeli settlement of Efrata built on the land of the Palestinian town of Al-Khader in Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank on 6 March 2024 (AFP/Hazem Bader)
The Israeli settlement of Efrata was built on land from the Palestinian town of Al-Khader in Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank on 6 March 2024 (AFP/Hazem Bader)

Israel has seized 800 hectares of land in the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank, Israeli media said on Friday, in what has been a record year for illegal settlement construction.

The seizure was overseen by far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and will allow for the construction of more units on the Yafit settlement.

All settlements built in the occupied territories are illegal under international law. 

“At a time when there are those in Israel and the world who seek to undermine our right to Judea and Samaria and the country in general, we are promoting settlement through hard work and strategically, all over the country,” Smotrich said, using the biblical name to refer to the West Bank. 

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, the Palestinian presidential spokesman, condemned the move. 

He said the timing, which coincides with the arrival of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Tel Aviv, constitutes a “challenge to the Biden administration and the international community”.

Around 700,000 Israeli settlers live in roughly 300 illegal settlements in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem.

Record year 

In recent weeks, both the United Nations and anti-settlement watchdog Peace Now said that Israel is expanding illegal settlements by a record amount. 

Last month, 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. 

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Earlier this month, the UN’s human rights chief Volker Turk said 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. 

As well as settlement building, there has also been a marked rise in Israeli settler and state violence against Palestinians in the West Bank.

Since the war began, Israeli forces and settlers have killed over 400 Palestinians in the territory. 

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