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Israeli municipality presents plan to build 770 settlement housing units near East Jerusalem

July 24, 2016 11:26 A.M. (Updated: July 24, 2016 7:39 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israel's Jerusalem municipality local planning and construction committee presented the construction plans for 770 settlement housing units, according to Israeli news website Walla.

The new units will be considered by Israel as part of the Jerusalem district, and will be built between the illegal Gilo settlement and the Palestinian town of Beit Jala, across from the Cremisan monastery in the Bethlehem district of the occupied West Bank.

Israeli had previously approved 1,200 housing units to be built in the area, and the plans for 770 of them were reportedly presented late last week.

According to Walla, excavations and preparation works for the new housing units have already begun.

The head of the municipality's local planning and construction committee, Meir Turgeman, reportedly disregarded international condemnations of Israel's illegal settlement activity, saying that despite what happens politically, settlement construction would continue in occupied East Jerusalem and across the West Bank.

Palestinian Authority Spokesman Yusif al-Mahmud condemned the announcement, and denounced what he called Israeli "arrogance," reflected by the insistence on establishing illegal settlements on Palestinian lands in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The spokesman warned of tensions that he said would result from Israel's escalation of settlement construction on Palestinian lands, including violence towards civilians, collective punishment, sieges, raids and desecration of holy sites.

Al-Mahmud held the Israeli government fully responsible for this escalation, which he said destroys any possibility of reviving the peace process on the basis of the internationally supported two-state solution.

The spokesman renewed his calls for the international community to take responsibility and stop Israel's escalations of settlement building.

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah also released a statement earlier this month condemning Israel’s announcement to increase financial support by 50 million shekels ($12.8 million) to the illegal Kiryat Arba settlement and Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank district of Hebron, saying the move “underscores Israel’s true intentions.”

Hamdallah also slammed Israel’s decision to increase financial support to settlements just under a week after the Israeli government approved the construction of 140 homes in the settlement of Ramot in occupied East Jerusalem and 100 for the Har Homa settlement in southeastern Jerusalem, while also retroactively legalizing a settler outpost.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman also approved plans to construct 560 new housing units for Jewish Israelis in the illegal settlement of Maale Adumim, as far-right lawmakers announced their intentions to introduce legislation to annex the settlement to Israel.

Hamdallah said that the continued development of Israel’s illegal settlements had revealed the lack of credibility of Israeli leaders who claim they support a two-state solution, adding that the Israeli government’s decision came on the heels of a report published by the Middle East Quartet which cited Israel’s settlement enterprise as one of the major obstacles to peace in the region, unraveling Israel’s public support for a two-state solution as hollow rhetoric.

Netanyahu fast-tracked government plans to expand illegal settlements in the West Bank following a series of attacks against Israeli settlers in Hebron in recent weeks which led to the death of two Israelis.

Israeli leaders have claimed the expansion of Israeli settlements further into Palestinian territory serves to deter attacks, constituting one of a number of punitive measures imposed on the whole of the Palestinian population in the wake of attacks on Israeli settlers and military personnel.

However, Palestinian leaders and rights groups have reiterated that such measures only serve to exacerbate tensions for Palestinians who have lived under a military occupation for nearly 50 years, while being systematically displaced as Israeli settlements continue to encroach further onto their lands.

While all Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are considered illegal under international law, settler outposts -- oftentimes established in locations that create corridors between larger settlements -- are also considered illegal under domestic Israeli law. However, it is common for settler outposts to be retroactively legalized into official settlements by the Israeli state.
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