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Israel army suspends seizure of Palestinian land to expand checkpoint

Palestinians try to pass through the Qalandiya checkpoint from Ramallah into Jerusalem to spend the Laylat Al-Qadr at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Ramallah, West Bank on 21 June, 2017 [Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency]
Palestinians pass through a checkpoint in the West Bank on 21 June 2017 [Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency]

The Israeli army has reportedly suspended a plan to seize 29 dunams (7.1 acres) of Palestinian-owned land near the Gilboa checkpoint on the northern boundary of the occupied West Bank, after its owners filed a petition in the Supreme Court, reported Haaretz.

On Thursday, the army announced that it is currently looking at alternatives, and, while it examines the options, "it will not carry out a seizure order issue on the land in question in October".

The army also claimed that its decision to – at least temporarily – suspend the land confiscation was unrelated to the Supreme Court (sitting as the High Court of Justice) petition.

According to Haaretz, Israeli occupation forces had originally "intended to use the land to accommodate trucks loaded with rock from quarries and other construction material from the West Bank in the vicinity of the checkpoint."

READ: Israel court rejects appeal against sale of Jerusalem church land to settlers

The Palestinian landowners said that an Israeli military official had "toured the land with them and told them he didn't understand their opposition", claiming that the initiative to expand the crossing point originated with both Israeli and Palestinian businessmen.

The landowners' lawyer, Alaa Mahagna, said that the case demonstrates just how casually the military commander wields his authority to expropriate land for "security purposes".

On Thursday, "the petitioners and the State Prosecutor's office issued a joint statement to the court confirming the decision to suspend the seizure order," Haaretz said.

The army statement read: "As part of a general examination taking place by defence officials, and unrelated to the petition filed in connection with the seizure order, another security alternative is being examined for moving the quarry [trucks] through the crossing point and the seizure order that was issued has been suspended."

READ: Israel demolishes farming and commercial facilities in occupied West Bank

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