20 January 2018

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Israel’s government gives go-ahead to more than 200 new units in the West Bank

Israeli NGO Peace Now reports that 674 new units have been approved so far this year. For the NGO’s spokesperson Hagit Ofran, the government is promoting construction “quietly and behind the scenes”. Mahmoud Abbas appeals to the UN and stresses the "urgent" need for a resolution.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Israeli government approved a plan to build more than 200 new housing units in West Bank settlements, an Israeli watchdog said yesterday.

Human rights group Peace Now slammed the government’s decision to accelerate land grabs after Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon asked the Israeli Civil Administration in the West Bank to approve the decision. New settlement construction will include isolated settlements.

Peace Now said that from January to March this year, the Israeli government pushed forward plans to build 674 housing units in West Bank settlements, way up compared with 115 the previous year.

Hagit Ofran, of Peace Now’s settlement watch programme, said the news revealed that “quietly and behind the scenes, West Bank construction is being promoted, including in isolated settlements.”

A few days ago, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas stressed the “urgent” need for a UN resolution condemning Israel’s illegal settlement expansion activities.

The Palestinian leader said he hopes the United States would change its approach at the Security Council, and support the resolution rather than veto it.

Settlements are in fact a major obstacle to peace in the region and makes the two-state solution impossible.

Speaking to AsiaNews, a spokesperson for Breaking the Silence said that Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories is counter to peace.

The recent wave of violence in Israel and Palestine, he added, "is clear evidence of the failure" of Israel’s occupation, and one state-policy.

The settlements are home to Israeli civilians and military personnel built on land Israel seized in the Six Day War in June 1967, in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and the Gaza Strip.

After signing a peace agreement with Egypt in 1979, Israel pulled out of the Sinai. In 2005 then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ordered the dismantling of 17 Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip.

Currently, Israeli settlements can be found in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights.

According to the Israeli Interior Ministry, there are at least 133 recognised settlements in the West Bank, plus a hundred or so outposts, with some 500,000 people. Some 300,000 Israelis live in East Jerusalem, and 20,000 on the Golan Heights.

In the past five years, the number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank rose by 20 per cent.

See also

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Mahmoud Abbas is threatening to leave negotiations if settlement activity does not stop. Freeze on new construction is set to expire in ten days. Netanyahu refuses to extend freeze, claiming security is Israel’s top priority.

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