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PLO Protests Israeli Plans to Confiscate Jerusalem Land

The Palestine Liberation Organization has responded angrily to reports that Israel is planning to confiscate Arab land for Jewish housing and an Israeli police station in eastern Jerusalem.

Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat accused Israel on Thursday of violating the 1993 peace accord.

“They are daily breaching what had been agreed upon, and this confiscation of land is one of these violations,” he told reporters in the Gaza Strip.

An Israel Lands Authority official confirmed newspaper reports that a total of about 130 acres of land was slated for confiscation in two different parts of eastern Jerusalem. Most of that land is under Arab ownership.

According to the plans, about 80 acres are to be confiscated in northern Jerusalem, near the Arab neighborhood of Beit Hanina. Another 50 acres are slated to be expropriated near the southern district of Beit Safafa.

Housing units were scheduled to be built at one of the sites. Apartments and a police station were to be built at the other.

Earlier this week, a confiscation order signed by Finance Minister Avraham Shohat that gave landowners a month to challenge the decision was published in the Israeli daily Ha’aretz.

The move angered members of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s government, who said there had been no discussion of the issue by the Cabinet.

“I was not aware of any such decision. I read about it in the newspapers,” Environment Minister Yossi Sarid told Israel Radio. “I plan to bring up the issue at Sunday’s Cabinet meeting.”

Sarid and his Meretz Colleague, Communications Minister Shulamit Aloni, are opposed to the expansion of Jewish settlements in the territories, as well as the expropriation of any land.

“We continue to take and take, while the wounds from the earlier expropriations haven’t healed,” Aloni told Israel Radio.

A group for Jewish-Arab equality in Jerusalem, Ir Shalem, or “A Whole City,” appealed to the finance minister to cancel the expropriation orders.

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