Israel announces plan to approve 2,500 new settler homes

#Occupation

Move comes after Palestinians submit complaint to International Criminal Court over settlement construction

A Palestinian protester throws stones towards Qadumim, an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank (AFP)
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Thursday 24 May 2018 10:01 UTC
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Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Thursday that he would request approval from a planning committee for the building of 2,500 new homes in 30 West Bank settlements.

"The 2,500 new units we'll approve in the planning committee next week are for immediate construction in 2018," Lieberman said in a statement, adding he would also seek the committee's approval for a further 1,400 settlement units for later construction.

"We committed to advancing construction in Judaea and Samaria and we're keeping our word," Lieberman said, using the biblical terms for the West Bank.

"In the coming months, we will bring forward thousands more units for approval."

He also tweeted: "We will develop building all around Judaea and Samaria, from north to south, in small settlements and big ones. We will continue to settle and develop Judaea and Samaria by action."

Israel's West Bank settlements are considered illegal under international law and are bitterly opposed by Palestinians.

In a Tuesday appeal to the International Criminal Court, the Palestinian foreign ministry called Israeli settlements "the single most dangerous threat to Palestinian lives and livelihoods".

While Israel would expect to retain certain settlements in any two-state peace deal, longstanding international consensus has been that their status must be negotiated.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki asked prosecutors at the International Criminal Court on Tuesday to launch a full investigation into accusations of Israeli human rights abuses on Palestinian territory, saying the evidence was "insurmountable".

Maliki submitted a "referral" giving the prosecutor at the Hague-based court the legal basis to move beyond a preliminary inquiry started in January 2015.

He said the request would give prosecutors the authority to investigate alleged crimes starting in 2014 and beyond, including last week's deaths during protests in Gaza.

"We believe there is ample and insurmountable evidence to that effect and we believe that proceeding with an investigation is the right and needed course of action," he said.

The International Criminal Court has the authority to hear cases of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity committed on the territory of the 123 countries that have signed up to it. Israel has not joined the court, but because the Palestinians have, Israelis could be targeted for crimes committed on Palestinian lands.

The decision by the Palestinians to join the court was opposed by major powers, who feared it could damage chances for peace talks.

"Through judicial referral we want. ..the office of the prosecutor to open without delay an investigation into all crimes," Maliki said after meeting with chief ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda.

"Further delaying justice for Palestinian victims is also tantamount to denial of justice."