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Israel advances plans to build nearly 4,500 settlement units in West Bank

Settlement expansion comes after killing of veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh
A view of the Jewish settlement of Givat Zeev, between Jerusalem and Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, 10 May 2022 (AFP)

Israel advanced plans on Thursday to build 4,427 housing units for settlers in the occupied West Bank, an Israeli NGO revealed.

The high planning committee of Israel's civil administration - an authority that runs the occupied West Bank - approved 2,791 units and initial endorsements for another 1,636, according to Peace Now, an NGO that monitors Israeli settlement expansion.

"This is bad news for Israel and deepens the occupation, making it harder to achieve future peace," Hagit Ofran of Peace Now said.

Nearly 700,000 Israelis live in illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which Israel illegally occupied during the 1967 war.

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The United States, under President Joe Biden, has said it "strongly" opposes such new constructions in the West Bank.

Last week, Jalina Porter, the US State Department deputy spokeswoman, said: "Israel's programme of expanding settlements deeply damages the prospect for a two-state solution."

Peace Now's report on the settlement expansion increased tensions across the West Bank after the killing of veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh on Wednesday during an Israeli raid on the town of Jenin.

The settlement units will be scattered throughout large areas of the West Bank known as Area C, where Israel has military and planning control.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was the former head of a settler lobby organisation and has been adamant in his opposition to Palestinian statehood.

"It's disappointing that this government that promised change is following similar policies to the government of Netanyahu," said Ofran from Peace Now, according to AFP.

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, a member of Bennett's right-wing Yamina party, said the news on Thursday was a "day of celebration for the settler movement".

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