Israel installs homes in new government-backed West Bank settlement
Israel began on Wednesday to install homes at its first new government-approved settlement in the occupied West Bank in 25 years, AFP has reported.
The prefab mobile houses were delivered to a site that will be known as Amichai, the first new government-sanctioned settlement since 1991.
Settlers have built homes without legal permits since 1991, with the Israeli government retroactively legalising them.
Existing settlements have also expanded exponentially - the number of West Bank settlers grew from 90,000 in 1991 to more than 380,000 today, according to Haaretz.
Most international observers consider the settlements to be the major impediment to peace. Under international law, all settlement construction is illegal but Israel distinguishes between those it sanctions and those it does not.
The new Amichai settlement will be located near the Shilo settlement in the northern West Bank, an area occupied by Israel for five decades.
It is being built for about 40 families from Amona, a community built without Israeli approval that was demolished in February 2017.
The families are expected to move into Amichai in one month, said Israel Ganz, vice-president of the Binyamin Regional Council that manages settlements in the area.
News of the Amichai settlement follows an increasingly emboldened Israeli government.
In mid-February, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said his country was discussing with Washington the annexation of the West Bank.
A senior US official denied the reports and said "the US would have objected to such proposals anyway". But US President Donald Trump's administration is viewed as friendly to settlements.
Yaakov Katz, founder of the West Bank Jewish Population Stats - a settler organisation with ties to Trump's inner circles - estimated that the settler population could reach 500,000 by the time Trump leaves office.
"We are changing the map," he said. "The idea of the two-state solution is over. It is irreversible.”
Netanyahu is coming under increasing pressure from his Likud Party members to annex the West Bank. In December, the hard-line party unanimously urged legislators to enact Israeli civilian law over the settlements.