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Israel approves plans for thousands of new homes in occupied West Bank

Israel approves plans for thousands of new homes in occupied West Bank
Israel on Thursday approved plans for more than 4,000 new homes in occupied West Bank. File Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI | License Photo

May 13 (UPI) -- Israel is moving forward with plans to construct more than 4,000 homes in the occupied West Bank, sparking condemnation from the United Nations, rights groups and democratic governments.

The Civil Administration's High Planning Council approved 25 plans for 4,427 homes in the West Bank on Thursday.

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Of those units, 2,791 received final approval with 1,636 others advancing for depositing, explained Peace Now, an anti-Israel settlement organization.

"The approval of these construction plans in the settlement is a slap in the face, not only to the prospect of peace, but also to the possibility of some future Palestinian economic development," the group said in a statement. "The construction of illegal settlements stands against the Israeli interest, and the only reason to approve these plans is a desire to please the right-wing parities."

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Israel's Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked responded to critics of the plan on Twitter, saying it was "a festive day for the settlement of Judea and Samaria," which is what Israel calls the West Bank.

The plan's approved Thursday also retroactively legalize the two outposts of Mitzpeh Dani and Givat Oz VeGaon.

Late last week, Israel announced that it was to convene the Thursday meeting to approve the settlement housing plans, sparking concern within the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden, who is to visit Israel soon.

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U.S. State Department principal deputy spokeswoman Jalina Porter told reporters during a press briefing on May 6 that the White House "strongly" opposes the expansion of settlements, stating they exacerbate tensions and undermine trust between the two parties.

"Israel's program of expanding settlements deeply damages the prospect of a two-state solution," she said.

Tor Wennesland, U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, issued a statement of condemnation after the plans were approved on Thursday, saying settlement expansion further entrenches the occupation, encroaches on Palestinian land and infringes upon their movement.

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"I urge the Israeli authorities to cease the advancement of all settlement actively and refrain from such unilateral and provocative actions that fuel instability and undermine the prospects for establishing a viable and contiguous Palestinian State as part of a negotiated two-state solution on the basis of relevant U.N. resolutions, international law and bilateral agreements," she said.

"I reiterate that all settlements are illegal under international law and constitute a major obstacle to peace."

Josep Borrell, the high representative for the European Union, said the 27-member bloc "condemns and deeply deplores" the decision to continue with construction of the houses as well as the approval of the outposts.

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"The EU urges Israel to reverse such decisions, which run counter to international; directly threaten the two-state solution, and are completely inconsistent with efforts to lower tension," he said in a statement.

The announcement follows Israel's Supreme Court allowing for some 1,000 Palestinians to be evicted from eight West Bank villages when it rejected a petition to intervene.

The ruling is the result of some two decades of litigation over the future of the area that Israel had designated for its military.

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