Washington: The United States urged Israel on Monday to reverse its latest plan to seize Palestinian land in the Bethlehem area of the occupied West Bank. “This announcement, like every other settlement [colony] announcement Israel makes, planning step they approve, and construction tender they issue, is counterproductive to Israel’s stated goal of a negotiated two-state solution with the Palestinians,” a State Department official said. “We urge the government of Israel to reverse this decision.” UK foreign secretary Philip Hammond also “deplored” the move as “particularly ill-judged”. Hammond used even stronger language, saying that the decision threatened to “damage Israel’s standing in the international community”. “Our position on settlements [colonies] is clear,” Hammond said. “They are illegal under international law, present an obstacle to peace and take us further away from a two state solution at a time when negotiations to achieve this objective urgently need to be resumed.” The plan, announced Sunday, foresees the expropriation of 988 acres of Palestinian land by the Israel government. According to the Israeli military, the move was a political decision made after the June killing of three Israeli teenagers snatched in the same area, known to Israelis as the Gush Etzion colony bloc. Israel has named three Palestinians from the southern West Bank city of Hebron as being behind the murders. The plan has angered the Palestinians and alarmed Israeli peace campaigners. The move has also been slammed by Egypt, which last week mediated a permanent truce between Israel and the Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip to end a 50-day war — the deadliest in years. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policy of colony expansion on land the Palestinians claim for a future state is deemed illegal by the European Union and an “obstacle to peace” by the United States.