Israel 'deepens West Bank occupation' after green lighting over 4,400 illegal settler homes

Israel 'deepens West Bank occupation' after green lighting over 4,400 illegal settler homes
2 min read
Israel has advanced plans for 4,427 housing units to be given to Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank, which NGOs say 'deepens the occupation'.
Israel seized the West Bank and east Jerusalem from Jordan in 1967 [Getty]

Israel advanced plans on Thursday for 4,427 new housing units for illegal Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank, an Israeli non-governmental organisation said.

The Civil Administration's high planning committee gave final approval to 2,791 units and initial endorsement for another 1,636 units, said Peace Now, an organisation that closely monitors Israeli settlement building.

Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank are illegal under international law.

"This is bad news for Israel and deepens the occupation, making it harder to achieve future peace," Hagit Ofran of Peace Now said.

The report of further expansion comes amid heightened tensions in the West Bank, one day after veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was shot dead by Israeli forces as she covered an Israeli raid on the Jenin refugee camp in the area.

The United States has said it "strongly" opposes such new construction in the West Bank.

Israel seized the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan in 1967.

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Since then, nearly 700,000 Israelis have moved into settlements that most of the international community regard as illegal.

Last week, US State Department deputy spokeswoman Jalina Porter referred to Thursday's planning meeting, stressing that "Israel's programme of expanding settlements deeply damages the prospect for a two-state solution."

The housing plans are scattered throughout a large swathe of the West Bank known as Area C, where Israel exercises military and planning control.

Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank and annexed East Jerusalem has continued under every Israeli government since 1967.

However, construction accelerated in the last few years under former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with a significant boom during former President Donald Trump's strongly pro-Israel US administration.

While Prime Minister Naftali Bennett ousted Netanyahu, leading an ideologically diverse coalition - including far-right elements and led by a pro-settlement party - he is the former head of a settler lobby group and opposes Palestinian statehood.

"It's disappointing that this government that promised change is following similar policies to the government of Netanyahu," said Ofran.

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, a member of Bennett's right-wing Yamina Party, said the news Thursday was a "day of celebration for the settler movement".