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Israel authorises new West Bank settlements, despite US opposition

Nine Jewish-only settler outposts in the occupied West Bank have been granted retroactive approval by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's security cabinet
A picture shows a general view of the Israeli settlement of Givat Zeev, near the Palestinian city of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, on 3 February (AFP/File photo)

Israel granted retroactive authorisation on Sunday to nine Jewish settler outposts in the occupied West Bank and announced the construction of new homes within established settlements, moves likely to draw US opposition.

The first to publish the decisions by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's security cabinet were two pro-settler ministers, whose inclusion in the coalition he built after a 1 November election had already signalled a hard-right tack.

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Most world powers consider the settlements illegal for taking up occupied land where the Palestinians seek statehood. Israel disputes this, and since capturing the West Bank in a 1967 war, successive governments have set up or approved 132 settlements.

In recent years, settler zealots have erected scores of outposts without government permission. Some have been razed by police, others authorised retroactively. The nine granted approval on Sunday are the first for this Netanyahu government.

A statement from Netanyahu's office also said a planning committee would convene in the coming days to approve new settlement homes. Far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said these would number 10,000.

There was no immediate comment from the US Embassy. But the ambassador, Thomas Nides, had made clear last month that the US administration would oppose such moves. 

"We want to keep a vision of a two-state solution alive. He (Netanyahu) understands that we understand that massive settlement growth will not accomplish that goal," Nides said.

"We have been very clear about the ideas of legalising outposts, massive settlement expansion - it will not keep the vision of the two-state solution alive, in which case we will oppose it and we will be very clear about our opposition," he told Israel's Kan television in a 11 January interview.

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