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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 August 2005, 11:42 GMT 12:42 UK
Israel to seize land for barrier
A sign advertising new homes that will built on Palestinian land at Maale Adumim
Israel is planning thousands of new homes in Maale Adumim
Israel has issued instructions to seize Palestinian land close to the largest Jewish settlement in the West Bank, the Justice Ministry said.

The government plans to use the land to continue building the controversial West Bank barrier around the settlement of Maale Adumim.

Palestinian leaders condemned the building of the barrier and urged the international community to intervene.

Israel argues the barrier is necessary to prevent Palestinian suicide attacks.

"Such decisions will only serve to undermine any efforts to resume negotiations," said senior Palestinian official, Saeb Erekat.

Palestinian officials are also preparing to oppose the action in Israeli courts.

They argue that the barrier is in reality a land grab that also cuts them off from their families, hospitals and schools.

Palestinians also believe the barrier will become a de facto border, prejudging final status negotiations on a Palestinian state.

In July 2004, the International Court of Justice issued an advisory ruling that Israel's West Bank barrier was illegal and construction of it should be stopped.

'Political move'

The land seizures come just days after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon reaffirmed his commitment to settlement construction in the West Bank.

Israeli settlements around Jerusalem

About 60km square (23m square) of land a to be expropriated, according to Israeli settlement monitoring group, Ir Amim.

The orders were posted on Monday in areas currently inhabited by Palestinian Bedouin farmers, the group said, and that more were expected to be issued in the coming weeks.

"We argue that the real reason for this is political, to annex another large part of the West Bank to Israel, said Amos Gil, director of Ir Amim

"This will cut the West Bank in half and you won't be able to have a viable Palestinian state," he added.

About 30,000 people live in Maaleh Adumim, which is located on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

Israel has occupied the West Bank since 1967.

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