Days after a cease-fire in Gaza was agreed to by Hamas and Israel, the latter announced it was taking over 1.5 square miles of West Bank territory south of Bethlehem as “a response to the kidnapping and killing of three Jewish teenagers in the area” this summer. The move, which was announced Sunday and is believed to be the “largest seizure by Israel” in decades, has been condemned by the U.S. and U.K., as well as United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who was reportedly “alarmed” by Israel’s actions.

BBC News:

“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,” a statement [from Ban Ki-moon’s office] said…The takeover of the land in the area of Gush Etzion clears the way for expansion of a settlement named Gevaot.

Local Israeli settlements said they hoped to build on the land, which Palestinian officials said included many olive groves.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the world community should hold Israel accountable for “the ongoing Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem”, according to the AFP news agency.

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—Posted by Natasha Hakimi Zapata

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