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ISRAEL advanced plans for the construction of more than 4,000 settler homes in the occupied West Bank today, a human rights group said.
Yesterday, the military demolished homes in an area where hundreds of Palestinians face the threat of expulsion.
Hagit Ofran, an expert at anti-settlement group Peace Now, said that a military planning body approved the building of 4,427 new housing units at a meeting that she attended today.
“The state of Israel took another stumble towards the abyss and further deepened the occupation,” she tweeted.
It was the biggest advancement of settlement projects since US President Joe Biden took office.
The White House claims to oppose settlement construction, which is illegal under international law, as an obstacle to a peace agreement with the Palestinians, but Washington has done nothing to restrain Israel.
Israel approved the building of some 3,000 new settler homes in October, brushing aside a US rebuke.
Peace talks with the Palestinians broke down more than a decade ago, in part because of Israel’s continuing construction on lands that the Palestinians want for a future state.
On Wednesday, Israeli troops demolished at least 18 buildings and structures in the West Bank following a Supreme Court decision to approve the eviction of at least 1,000 Palestinians from an area that Israel designated as a military firing zone in the early 1980s.
B’Tselem, another Israeli rights group, said that 12 residential buildings were among the structure demolished in villages in the arid hills south of the city of Hebron.
Residents of Masafer Yatta say they have been living in the region, herding animals and practising traditional desert agriculture for decades, long before Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 war.
Nonetheless, the Supreme Court sided with the military, which claims that there were no permanent structures in the area before it was designated a training zone.
“What’s happening now is ethnic cleansing,” said activist and local resident Sami Huraini. “They are trying to expel the people from this land, saying they never lived here permanently, which is a lie.
“The people are staying on their land and have already started to rebuild,” Mr Huraini added.
Israel has more than 130 settlements across the West Bank with nearly 500,000 residents, who have Israeli citizenship.
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