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Israel PM approves 300 settler homes in occupied West Bank

July 29, 2015 1:22 P.M. (Updated: July 29, 2015 5:26 P.M.)
Palestinians walking near the Israeli settlement of Beit El, in the occupied West Bank, on April 7, 2015. (AFP/Abbas Momani)
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday approved the "immediate" construction of 300 settler homes in the occupied West Bank as his government came under pressure from right-wing Jewish groups.

"After consultations in the prime minister's office, the immediate construction of 300 homes in Beit El has been authorized," a statement from Netanyahu's office said, adding that planning for another 504 homes in annexed East Jerusalem had also been approved.

According to the statement, the 300 units in the West Bank had been promised three years ago following the demolition of other homes in the Beit El settlement.

The move came after the Israeli High Court earlier Wednesday upheld a demolition order for two structures being built illegally in the Beit El settlement in the West Bank. The planned demolition had drawn protests from settler groups who clashed with police at the site.

Netanyahu had said he opposed the demolition of the housing units under construction, which began on Wednesday.

The prime minister holds only a one-seat majority in parliament following March elections and settler groups wield significant influence in his right-wing government.

Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank are considered illegal under international law, though not by the Israeli government.

Over the last two decades, Jewish settlements have expanded throughout the West Bank and have made the potential for a contiguous Palestinian state near-impossible if they remain.

The Israeli government provides separate systems of infrastructure for those living in the Jewish-only settlements, connecting over 500,000 settlers to roads, electricity, water, and sewage systems that remain inaccessible to neighboring Palestinians.
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