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Arab League: Israel exploits virus to grow settlements

Israel using world's engrossment in pandemic to expand settlements in West Bank, east Jerusalem, says joint statement

Arab League: Israel exploits virus to grow settlements


The Arab League warned on Wednesday that as global attention is turned elsewhere amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, Israel is expanding settlements in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem.

The statement by the organization of 22 Arab countries came after a meeting between its Secretary General Ahmed Aboul-Gheit and the Palestinian Liberation Organization's Secretary General, Saeb Erekat.

Aboul-Gheit and Erekat discussed the current coronavirus outbreak in Palestine, along with ongoing Israeli settlement expansion.

"The [Israeli] occupation is exploiting the world's engrossment with the coronavirus pandemic to expand their settlements and impose new realities on the ground, especially in east Jerusalem and its surrounding areas," said the statement.

On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, the leader of Blue and White party, agreed to declare Israeli sovereignty in the Jordan Valley and Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank next June as part of their agreement to form an Israeli government.

Since Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Jerusalem, the country has built 132 settlements and 121 settlement outposts for 427,000 settlers, according to the Israeli peace group.

International law views both the West Bank and East Jerusalem as occupied territories and considers all Jewish settlement-building activity there illegal

Since appearing in Wuhan, China last December, the virus has spread to at least 184 countries and regions, according to figures compiled by the U.S.’ Johns Hopkins University.

More than 1.43 million cases have been reported worldwide, with more than 82,100 deaths, and nearly 302,000 recoveries.

* Ahmed Asmar contributed to this report from Ankara

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