Israeli government approves 31 settler homes in Hebron
An Israeli committee approved construction permits for the 31 units, Anat Ben Nun of the Peace Now NGO told AFP.
Several hundred Israeli settlers live in the heart of Hebron under heavy military guard among some 200,000 Palestinians.
Several streets in the centre of the city have been shut off to Palestinians, with shop shutters welded closed, and daubed with racist graffiti and spray-painted stars of David.
In those areas of the Old City where residents are still permitted, streets have netting strung across them as a protective canopy to prevent the bricks, rubble - and even washing machines - thrown by Israeli occupants of overlooking apartments from hurting people on the ground level.
In the West Bank, more than600,000 Israelis now live in settlements deemed illegal under international law. The Geneva Conventions prohibit the transfer of an occupying population into a military-occupied area.
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The approvals for the new homes follow plans to build 4,000 settler homes as part of a push to greatly boost settlement growth, an Israeli official has said.
Peace Now, which closely monitors settlement construction, said a planning council meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday is expected to have more than 2,000 new units on the agenda.
Settlement building in the occupied West Bank and annexed East Jerusalem is seen as a major obstacle to peace, as the settlements are built on Palestinian land, with further neighbouring Palestinian land - often fertile farmland - also annexed to the settlements by the construction of the Separation Wall.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's right-wing coalition government relies heavily on settlers and their supporters to maintain its thin parliamentary majority.
Israel faced heavy criticism for settlement construction from US President Barack Obama's administration, but that has not been the case with Obama's successor, Donald Trump.
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