News Ramadan prayer at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa under the shadow of Gaza war

WASHINGTON/JERUSALEM: UN aid chief Martin Griffiths on Friday called for an immediate ceasefire and said Israel needs to lift all impediments to aid distribution to Gazans.

“Limits to aid distribution within Gaza are set by those who block the movements of convoys meant to feed tens of thousands of critically hungry people,” Griffiths said in a post on social media platform X.
Meanwhile, the Israeli government announced it was confiscating 800 hectares of land in the occupied West Bank, which activists called the largest such seizure in decades.
An area of about 1,980 acres in the northern Jordan Valley has been declared “state land,” said far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who has vowed to expand Jewish settlements in the West Bank, which are regarded as illegal under international law.

BACKGROUND

Peace Now called the timing of the announcement a ‘provocation’ as it came during a visit by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who has been critical of settlement expansion by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.

Jordan condemned the new land seizure, “reaffirming the kingdom’s categorical rejection and denunciation of the Israeli government’s ongoing violations of all international law norms.”
Despite international condemnation of a policy that is regarded as one of the main obstacles to Middle East peace, successive Netanyahu-led governments have sharply accelerated the expansion of Israeli settlements across the West Bank.
Excluding annexed East Jerusalem, they are now home to more than 490,000 Israelis, who live alongside around 3 million Palestinians.
Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now said the seizure was the single largest since the 1993 Oslo Accords and that “2024 marks a peak in the extent of declarations of state land.”
Peace Now called the timing of the announcement a “provocation” as it came during a visit by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who has been critical of settlement expansion by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.
Blinken met Netanyahu in Tel Aviv on Friday for talks.
Israel captured the West Bank, including annexed east Jerusalem, in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, and all Israeli settlements in the territory are considered illegal under international law.
“While there are those in Israel and the world who seek to undermine our right over the Judea and Samaria area and the country in general, we are promoting settlement through hard work and in a strategic manner all over the country,” Smotrich said, using Israel’s term for the West Bank.
Several hard-line settler leaders have been targeted with asset freezes and travel bans by Britain, the EU and the US for their alleged roles in the violence.

 

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