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Minister urges Israel to go ahead with West Bank annexation

Israeli Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Uri Yehuda Ariel

An Israeli minister says Tel Aviv must go ahead with a plan to annex more than half of the occupied West Bank after evicting thousands of Palestinians from the area.

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Uri Ariel made the remarks in Moscow where he traveled with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday.

“We have to aspire to the annexation of Area C. These are areas where there are no Arabs at all. We would remove a few thousand, who do not constitute a significant numerical factor,” Ariel said.

Area C comprises over 60 percent of the occupied West Bank. Measuring about 330,000 hectares, the territory is totally run by the Israeli military even though it is home to nearly 300,000 Palestinians, according to the United Nations.

Israel, however, says only about 50,000 Palestinians are residing there.

Ariel, also a hawkish member of the Knesset, is fervently pushing for the annexation of Area C. In January, he strongly urged the Israeli regime to take full possession of the land.

“We should tell the prime minister, the government and the Knesset that the time has come to annex Area C. I am suggesting that we unite around this call,” he said.

Ariel has even hinted at annexing the occupied West Bank in whole. “If someone asks about Areas A and B, then their time will come. When, we will see. For now, let’s agree on Area C.”

A picture taken on May 8, 2015 shows buildings in the Israeli settlement of Ramat Shlomo in the occupied East al-Quds (Jerusalem). (AFP)

Under the interim agreements reached between Tel Aviv and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in the 1990s, and as part of Oslo Accords, the West Bank was divided into three zones.

Area A, the smallest of all, constitutes about 18 percent of the land and the Palestinian Authority is supposed to control most civilian affairs and internal security.

Area B, constituting around 22 percent of the rural West Bank, is administered by the Palestinian Authority for its civil affairs and by Israel for its security issues.

In both zones, Israel holds full control of external security, meaning it retains the right to enter the zones at any time and make arrests or carry out any extrajudicial execution.

A child walks past the debris of his family home in the West Bank Bedouin camp of Khan al-Ahmar on April 6, 2016 after Israeli authorities demolished four houses there. (AFP)

Virtually all of the Israeli settler population of the West Bank of more than 350,000 is based in Area C, living in 125 settlements and about 100 outposts.

The Israeli military almost never grants the Palestinians living in Area C building permits. According to a UN report, more than 11,000 demolition orders are currently outstanding in Area C.

The agreement on separating the West Bank into three zones was worked out to enable an incremental transfer of authority to the Palestinian Authority and to address the needs of a long-term demographic growth.

The UN announced in late April that a total of 588 Palestinian structures, mostly based in Area C, had been razed since January. It said the demolitions had affected more than 1,000 people as the residents had lost structures related to their source of income.

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