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The Latest | Watchdog says Israel approved largest land seizure in West Bank in decades

An anti-settlement watchdog said Wednesday that Israel has approved the largest seizure of land in the occupied West Bank in over three decades.

Peace Now said authorities recently approved the appropriation of 12.7 square kilometers (nearly 5 square miles) of land in the Jordan Valley. The group’s data indicate it was the largest single appropriation approved since 1993.

Peace Now said 2024 is by far the peak year for Israeli land seizure in the West Bank.

The land appropriation was likely to worsen already soaring tensions linked to the ongoing Israel-Hamas war in Gaza. Violence has surged in the West Bank since the start of the war, with Israel carrying out near-daily military raids that often spark deadly gunbattles with Palestinian militants.

On Tuesday, the United Nations said Palestinians were streaming out of eastern Khan Younis, the second-largest city in Gaza, as an Israeli evacuation order affected roughly 250,000 people. Israel’s military estimated that around 1.9 million people — more than 80% of all Palestinians in the Gaza Strip — are now clustered into the territory’s central region.

Evacuees have been told by Israel to seek refuge in an overcrowded coastal area filled with sprawling tent camps where there are few basic services. The war has largely cut off the flow of food, medicine and goods to Gaza, and people are totally dependent on humanitarian aid. The top U.N. court has concluded there is a “plausible risk of genocide” in Gaza — a charge Israel strongly denies.

Israel launched the war in Gaza after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, in which militants stormed into southern Israel, killed some 1,200 people — mostly civilians — and abducted about 250.

Since then, Israeli ground offensives and bombardments have killed more than 37,900 people in Gaza, according to the territory’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between combatants and civilians in its count.

Currently:

— A strike kills a family as an Israeli evacuation order sparks panicked flight from a southern Gaza city.

— Hezbollah’s deputy leader says the group would stop fighting with Israel after a Gaza cease-fire.

— Lebanese authorities charge U.S. Embassy shooter with affiliation to militant Islamic State group.

— Iran’s presidential candidates talk economic sanctions and nuclear deal ahead of their runoff election.

— Follow news agencies’s coverage of the war in Gaza at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war.

Here’s the latest:

An anti-settlement watchdog says Israel has approved the largest seizure of land in the occupied West Bank in over three decades.

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