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Reports: Israel approves construction of 1,162 settlement units in West Bank

Feb. 9, 2017 4:37 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 10, 2017 2:39 P.M.)
(File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israel reportedly approved the construction of 1,162 settlement units on Wednesday, to be built in the occupied West Bank, according to Hebrew news website Walla.

Walla reported that Israel’s higher planning council on settlement activity, which is affiliated to the Israeli civil administration, approved the new 1,162 settlement units, including units in a new settlement near the existing Shvut Rachel settlement in the northern West Bank district of Nablus.

The new settlement adjacent to Shvut Rachel was initially planned to be built to house residents of the now evacuated illegal Amona outpost -- an offer refused by the Amona setters.

A spokesperson for the Israeli civil administration was not immediately available for comment.

It remained unclear as of Thursday whether or not the 1,162 units were part of the more than 6,000 housing units to have been approved for construction in East Jerusalem and the West Bank by the Israeli government since the beginning of 2017.

Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, passed into law the contested outpost “Regularization bill” on Monday, granting official Israeli governmental recognition to more than a dozen illegal settlement outposts in the occupied West Bank established on private Palestinian lands, as observers warned of the potentially disastrous effects of such legislation on Palestinians and on hopes of a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The law states that any settlements built in the occupied West Bank “in good faith” -- without knowledge that the land upon which it was built was privately owned by Palestinians -- could be officially recognized by Israel pending minimal proof of governmental support in its establishment and some form of compensation to the Palestinian landowners.

As it stands, the law would affect the status of 16 outposts, although Israeli media reports indicated that more could be included in the future.

Earlier this month, the Israeli government gave its approval for the construction of more than 3,000 new illegal settlement homes across the occupied West Bank.

Secretary-General of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Saeb Erekat released a statement describing Israel’s continued settlement expansion as an “immoral situation,” as he called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to “open an immediate investigation into the Israeli settlement enterprise.”

“Israel continues to systematically violate the rights of the Palestinian people and to give a green light and support for settlers to take over more Palestinian land and to terrorize the Palestinian population. This immoral situation shouldn't continue to be tolerated by the international community. It has to end,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, Israel has continued to demolish Palestinian homes and structures across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, demolishing a record 1,093 structures in the occupied Palestinian territory in 2016, displacing 1,601 Palestinians, which the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said were the highest demolition and displacement figures on record.

Since the start of 2017, Israeli forces have already demolished 119 Palestinian structures in the occupied territory, displacing at least 177 Palestinians, according to OCHA, while Israel has also targeted Palestinians communities inside Israel with demolitions, which rights groups argued were part of the same Israeli policy of forcible displacement also carried out against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
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