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Israel's new settlement plan is a 'blatant challenge' to US, says Palestinian Authority

Despite US criticism, Israel plans to build 4,000 new occupied West Bank settlement units, demolishing at least 12 villages in Hebron's Masafer Yatta
Tents in the Area C village of al-Fikheet in the southern West Bank's Masafer Yatta on 14 March (AFP/File photo)

Israel's recently announced plan to build thousands of housing units for illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank is a "blatant challenge" to the United States and the international community, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has said. 

The PA Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, in a statement on Saturday, slammed Israel's plan to build 4,000 new settlement units in the West Bank, which will require the demolition of 12 villages in Masafer Yatta, south of Hebron, and the seizure of nearly 5,500 acres of land in the Jordan Valley. 

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"These plans are a flagrant violation of international law and the Geneva Conventions, a coup against signed agreements. [They] inflame tension and undermine trust as well as the two-state solution," the ministry said. 

Israel announced its plan on Friday and was met with US criticism, as the State Department called on Israel to "avoid unilateral steps that would exacerbate tensions and make it more difficult to preserve the viability of a two-state solution". 

"The Biden administration has been clear from the outset," department spokesperson Jalina Porter said during a news briefing on Friday. 

"We strongly oppose the expansion of settlements which exacerbates tensions and undermines trust between the parties. Israel’s programme of expanding settlements deeply damages the prospect for a two-state solution."

The PA ministry welcomed the US criticism, but warned that words are "insufficient" and do not "rise to the level of the crimes of settlement construction".

Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory are illegal under international law.

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The last time settlement units were approved in October, the Biden administration released a similar statement, condemning continued settlement building publicly.

President Joe Biden has plans to travel to Israel next month. When asked if the trip could be affected by this recent announcement during the State Department briefing on Saturday, Porter refused to comment. 

On Thursday, Israel's high court ruled for the eviction of 1,000 Palestinians from an area in the West Bank so that the land could be repurposed for the Israeli military and used as a "firing zone".

Masafer Yatta, a rural area of the south Hebron hills, is under Israeli control and home to multiple small Palestinian villages. However, Israel has argued that the villagers living in the area were not permanent residents when the zone was declared in the 80s. 

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