Rights group says Israel approves 4,427 new Jewish settler homes

AP  /  May 12, 2022

JERUSALEM — Israel on Thursday approved the construction of more than 4,000 Jewish settler homes in the occupied West Bank, an Israeli rights group said.

It’s the biggest advancement of settlement projects since the Biden administration took office. The U.S. opposes settlement construction and views it as an obstacle to any eventual peace deal with the Palestinians. Most of the international community views the settlements as illegal.

Hagit Ofran, an expert on the settlements at the anti-settlement watchdog Peace Now, says a military planning body approved 4,427 housing units at a meeting that she attended.

Israeli officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The approval came a day after Israel’s military demolished at least 18 buildings and structures in the occupied West Bank following a Supreme Court decision that would force around 1,000 Palestinians out of an area Israel had designated a firing zone.

B’Tselem, another Israeli rights group, said in a statement that Border Police and soldiers levelled a total of 18 structures, including 12 residential buildings, in villages in the hills south of the West Bank city of Hebron/Al-Khalil on Wednesday.

Last week, Israel’s Supreme Court upheld an expulsion order that would force out residents of a cluster of Bedouin communities in Masafer Yatta, where they say they have been living for decades. The military declared the area a firing zone in the early 1980s.

Neither COGAT, the Israeli military body in charge of civilian affairs in the occupied territory, nor the army responded to requests for comment about the demolitions.

Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war and has built more than 130 settlements across the territory that are home to nearly 500,000 settlers.

Nearly 3 million Palestinians live in the West Bank under Israeli military rule.

The Palestinians seek the West Bank to form the main part of a future state.

They view the expansion of settlements as a major obstacle to any future peace deal because they reduce and divide up the land on which such a state would be established. Most of the international community views the settlements as illegal.