Israel Claims 988 Acres Of West Bank Land

U.S. U.N. and Palestinian officials have criticized the decision. The land at the heart of the dispute hugs the line separating the West Bank from Israel and reaches in toward Palestinian villages.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Less than a week after Israel and Hamas agreed to a cease-fire, attention is shifting to another conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

It is a dispute over land in the West Bank. Over the weekend, Israel declared nearly 1,000 acres of the West Bank to be Israeli state land. This clears the way for more Jewish settlement in an area Palestinians say should be part of their future state. U.S., U.N. and Palestinian officials all criticized Israel's decision.

INSKEEP: Control of land is always an explosive issue in this conflict, and that is especially so now. NPR's Emily Harris explains from Jerusalem.

EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: The land at the heart of this dispute hugs the line separating the West Bank from Israel and reaches in toward Palestinian villages, but toward Israeli settlements, too.

There are already many settlements in this area, and settlement supporters argue it's a natural place for Israel to continue to build. They also argue it is politically important to build. This is in the area where three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and killed in June. Local settlement leaders say, building more Jewish homes is the appropriate Zionist response to such violent acts.

But one Palestinian political leader, Hanan Ashrawi, said, the announcement represents Israel's, quote, "deliberate intent to wipe out any Palestinian presence on the land." She also cited nearly 1,500 new settlement units approved elsewhere in the West Bank since mid-June, done, she said, under the cover of the confrontation with Hamas.

There have been hints that last week's open cease-fire in Gaza could present an opportunity to restart big picture peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. But real negotiations - even over Gaza - have yet to seriously begin. Emily Harris, NPR News, Jerusalem.

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