There are fears it could spark an 'international incident' if they escape into the River Jordan

An Israeli West Bank settlement is trying to get rid of hundreds of stranded crocodiles amid fears they could escape and cause an "international incident."

The animals were brought  to the Petzael settlement in the Jordan Valley - between the West Bank and Jordan - some 20 years ago as part of a plan to open a tourist attraction in the area.

The ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine meant the plan had to be abandoned, with the crocodiles stranded there ever since.

The animals can live to the age of 70 - and they have continued to multiply over the years.

The situation prompted entrepreneur Gadi Biton to snap them up, with the idea of selling them for their skin - but his venture flopped in 2012 after Israel passed a law defining the crocodile as a protected animal.

Under the new law, the crocs cannot be raised or sold as meat or merchandise.

"International incident"

"We found ourselves with hundreds of crocodiles in this farm that no one knows what to do with," said David Elhayani, head of the regional council in the Jordan Valley.

"I don't want to think of what will happen if a crocodile manages to escape and reaches the Jordan River - and then we'll have an international incident.

"Maybe then someone will wake up and find a quick solution to this problem."

"Practical solution"

A number of attempts to sell the crocodiles overseas have been unsuccessful - and they are breeding at such a rate that there could soon be thousands of them in the area.

There have been a number of escape attempts in the past and on one occasion, 70 of the reptiles broke free from the farm - sparking a three-day search.

COGAT, the Israeli defence body that administers civilian affairs in the West Bank, said it is working to find a "practical solution" to the crocodile conundrum in the hope of ensuring they do not reach the river.

Additional reporting - agencies ...