Turkey denounces Israel plan to seize West Bank land

Turkey denounces Israel plan to seize West Bank land

Turkey denounces Israel plan to seize West Bank land

The Israeli West Bank settlement of Efrat (R) is seen on Sept. 1. AFP Photo

Turkey has condemned Israel’s decision to expropriate 400 hectares (988 acres) of Palestinian land in the Bethlehem area in the south of the occupied West Bank, calling on the government to renounce this decision in line with international law.

“We denounce Israel’s seizing land, which is aimed at building illegal settlements, in villages in the West Bank,” a written statement by the Turkish Foreign Ministry said late Sept. 1.

Israel announced the move on Aug. 31, the army saying the step stemmed from political decisions taken after the June killing of three Israeli teenagers snatched from a roadside in the same area, known to Israelis as Gush Etzion settlement bloc.

“Israel’s decision to dispossess the largest scale of land in the West Bank for the last 30 years displays this country’s practices that violate international law on occupied Palestinian lands,” said Turkey's statement, adding that it expected the decision to be reversed.

Ankara also warned Israel against taking steps that could harm the recent cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, which it said could destroy grounds for lasting peace and the two-state resolution.

Ban expresses 'alarm'

Meanwhile, the U.N. said Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was "alarmed" by the Israeli government's plans

"The Secretary-General is alarmed by yesterday's announcement by Israeli authorities to declare as so-called 'state land' nearly 1,000 acres of land in the Bethlehem area of the West Bank," the U.N. spokesman said.

The United States urged Israel earlier Sept. 1 to reverse the plan, which has angered the Palestinians and also prompted Israeli peace campaigners' to express concern.

"The seizure of such a large swathe of land risks paving the way for further settlement activity, which - as the United Nations has reiterated on many occasions - is illegal under international law and runs totally counter to the pursuit of a two-state solution. The secretary-general calls on Israel to heed the calls of the international community to refrain from settlement activity and abide by its commitments under international law and the Quartet Road Map," the U.N. statement added.