Israel has confirmed it plans to appropriate another large tract of fertile land in the occupied West Bank. The area covers 154 hectares (380 acres) in the Jordan Valley close to Jericho, and is its largest land seizure since August 2014.

Israel's Defence Ministry said the political decision to seize the territory had been taken and "the lands are in the final stages of being declared state lands".

Jordan Valley
A Palestinian man sits on a rock and looks out over the Jordan Valley near the West Bank city of Jericho on 21 January 2016Mohamad Torokman/Reuters
Jordan Valley
An area of the Jordan Valley near the West Bank city of Jericho is seen on 21 January 2016Mohamad Torokman/Reuters
Jordan Valley
An Israeli soldier stands guard under a national flag as Israeli parliament members tour an area of the Jordan Valley near the Jewish settlement of Maale Efrayim on 2 January 2014Ronen Zvulun/Reuters
Jordan Valley
Palestinian workers collect onions on agricultural land belonging to Israeli settlers near Jericho in the Jordan Valley on 21 January 2016Menahem Kahana/AFP

The move is likely to exacerbate tensions with Western allies and already drawing international condemnation. UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon denounced the move, and Palestinian officials said they would push for a resolution at the UN against Israel's settlement policies.

Palestinian officials denounced the seizure. "Israel is stealing land specially in the Jordan Valley under the pretext it wants to annex it," Hanan Ashrawi, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organization, told Reuters. "This should be a reason for a real and effective intervention by the international community to end such a flagrant and grave aggression which kills all chances of peace."

The land, in an area fully under Israeli control and already used by Jewish settlers to farm dates, is situated near the northern tip of the Dead Sea.

Hagit Ofran, a member of the anti-settlement group Peace Now, said that unlike previous Israeli governments that largely avoided land seizures, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has carried out several appropriations during his time in office. She described the move as a "catastrophe".

In August 2014, soon after Hamas militants kidnapped and killed three Jewish teenagers, Israel appropriated some 400 hectares (988 acres) in the Etzion settlement bloc near Bethlehem, a move Peace Now said was the biggest in 30 years.

Jordan Valley
Israeli seminary students take part in a special prayer in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Kfar Etzion on 15 June 2014, for three teenagers that were abductedRonen Zvulun/Reuters
Jordan Valley
30 June 2014: Israelis light candles at a junction near the West Bank settlement of Efrat, after Israeli forces found the bodies of three missing teenagers after a nearly three-week-long search and a sweep against the Islamist Hamas group that Israel says abducted themBaz Ratner/Reuters
Jordan Valley
Children climb on a slide at a playground in a Jewish settlement in the Etzion settlement bloc, near Bethlehem on 31 August 2014 after Israel announced a land appropriation in the occupied West Bank that an anti-settlement group termed the biggest in 30 yearsRonen Zvulun/Reuters
Jordan Valley
17 February 2014: A Palestinian woman from the Bani Mania family milks sheep in her camp which was demolished by the Israeli authorities after they declared the village as being in an army training zone in the Jericho governorate of the Jordan ValleyMenahem Kahana/AFP
Jordan Valley
A member of the Israeli security forces kicks a tear gas canister during clashes with Palestinians on the highway between Jerusalem and Jericho on 28 November 2014, during protests against the construction of Jewish settlements in the Jordan Valley and the plan to relocate Bedouins from the central West Bank areaAbbas Momani/AFP
Jordan Valley
An Israeli guard post is seen near Jericho in the Jordan Valley on 22 October 2014Baz Ratner/Reuters

Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 war, along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, territories the Palestinians want for their hoped-for state. Much of the international community view West Bank settlements as illegal.

There are now about 550,000 Jewish settlers living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem combined, according to Israeli government and think tank statistics. About 350,000 Palestinians live in East Jerusalem and 2.7 million in West Bank.

Jordan Valley
A Palestinian man from the herding community of Al Hadidya tends to his sheep in the Jordan Valley on 12 September 2011Darren Whiteside/Reuters
Jordan Valley
17 February 2014: A Palestinian woman from the Bani Mania family milks sheep in her camp which was demolished by the Israeli authorities after they declared the village as being in an army training zone in the Jericho governorate of the Jordan ValleyMenahem Kahana/AFP
Jordan Valley
A Bedouin girl swings from a tree as she plays with other in the Jordan Valley, near the West Bank city of Jenin on 2 January 2013Ammar Awad/Reuters
Jordan Valley
A Palestinian boy looks through nylon sheet covering his family tent in the West Bank Bedouin village of Farsiyah,in the northern Jordan Valley on 6 January 2015Abed Omar Qusini/Reuters
Jordan Valley
Palestinian and foreign activists protest against Israel's occupation of the West Bank, in an old village known as Ein Hajla, in the Jordan Valley near the West Bank city of Jericho on 31 January 2014Ammar Awad/Reuters
Jordan Valley
A child watches a Jewish settler preparing concrete in the Jewish settlement of Gitit in the Jordan Valley on 2 January 2014Ronen Zvulun/Reuters
Jordan Valley
Children hold Israeli national flags as they wait for the dedication ceremony of a new neighbourhood in the Jewish settlement of Gitit in the Jordan Valley on 2 January 2014Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

Israel is hoping it will be able to keep large settlement blocs including in the Jordan Valley, both for security and agricultural purposes. The Palestinians are adamantly opposed. The last round of peace talks broke down in April 2014 and Israeli-Palestinian violence has surged in recent months. Since the start of October 2015, Palestinian stabbings, car-rammings and shootings have killed 25 Israelis and a US citizen. In the same period, at least 148 Palestinians have been killed, 94 of whom Israel has described as assailants.