Britain 'deplores' Israel decision to claim West Bank land

LONDON Mon Sep 1, 2014 8:44am EDT

Britain's Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond arrives in Downing Street in central London August 20, 2014.   REUTERS/Toby Melville

Britain's Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond arrives in Downing Street in central London August 20, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Toby Melville

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LONDON (Reuters) - The British government said on Monday it deplored an Israeli decision to appropriate a large swathe of land inside the occupied West Bank, saying the move would seriously damage Israel's international reputation.

On Sunday, Israel announced the appropriation of land in the Etzion Jewish settlement bloc near Bethlehem, a move which an anti-settlement group said was the biggest such claim in 30 years.

"The UK deplores the Israeli government's expropriation of 988 acres (1.54 square miles) of land around the settlement of Etzion," British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said in a statement which echoed U.S. calls to reverse the decision.

"This is a particularly ill-judged decision that comes at a time when the priority must be to build on the ceasefire in Gaza. It will do serious damage to Israel’s standing in the international community."

Some 500,000 Israelis live among 2.4 million Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, territory that the Jewish state captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

(Reporting by William James; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

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