Egypt slams Israel plan to seize Palestinian land

Photo: Egypt slams Israel plan to seize Palestinian land  / Arab World

Egypt denounced on Monday Israeli plans to expropriate West Bank land, saying the move violates international law and is an obstacle to efforts for a lasting Palestinian-Israeli settlement.

"This is not a positive step -- it contradicts international law and will have negative consequences on the peace process," a statement issued by the Cairo-based foreign ministry said, according to Agence France-Presse.

The Egyptian foreign ministry did not mention the Gaza truce talks but insisted that Israel's planned land grab in the West Bank would be "an obstacle" to a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.

Tthe United States also urged Israel to reverse its latest plan to seize Palestinian land in the Bethlehem area of the occupied West Bank.

"This announcement, like every other settlement announcement Israel makes, planning step they approve, and construction tender they issue, is counterproductive to Israel's stated goal of a negotiated two-state solution with the Palestinians," a State Department official said.

"We urge the government of Israel to reverse this decision," he said.

Rights watchdog Amnesty International also denounced the Israeli plans, saying that it "appears to be the largest land grab in the occupied Palestinian territories since 1980."

"Israel's strategy of illegally confiscating land for settlements in the West Bank must stop once and for all," Amnesty's Philip Luther said.

Also on Monday, the British government said it deplored Israel's decision, clarifying that the move would seriously damage Israel's international reputation.

On Sunday, Israel said it would expropriate 400 hectares (988 acres) of Palestinian land around Bethlehem, and allowed 45 days for any appeal.

It said the move stemmed from political decisions taken after the abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers in the same area, known to Israelis as the Gush Etzion settlement bloc.

The Palestinians have called for diplomatic action against Israel, while Israeli peace campaigners said the land expropriation is the biggest of its kind in three decades.

Follow us on Twitter @TRENDNewsAgency