Israel to approve new settler units in Hebron: Peace Now

Hebron /PNN/

Israel is set to approve construction of settler units in the southern West Bank city of al-Khalil (Hebron) for the first time since 2002, an anti-occupation group says.

Peace Now, which tracks settlement construction in the occupied territory, said Tuesday that Israeli military authorities had given the green light to the construction of 31 settler housing units “in the heart of Hebron.”

The anti-settlement monitoring group condemned the Israeli plan as an attempt to “squeeze in” the approvals before the US presidential election next week.

“The attempt to squeeze in this construction of 31 settlement units before the US election is an unscrupulous act that threatens Israel’s national interest and relations on the world stage,” Peace Now said.

COGAT, an Israeli military body, took steps to approve new settler units in central of Hebron in 2017.

Peace Now and the city’s municipality challenged that project in court.

According to Peace Now, Israel allocated more than 21 million shekels ($6.2 million) to the project in 2018.

The Jerusalem District Court had told Tel Aviv that the project cannot go ahead until the legal challenge is resolved, with a hearing set for January 31, Peace Now said.

However, Israeli authorities told the court on Sunday that they would issue the permits within a week, the settlement watchdog said in a statement.

Israel “was quick to issue the building permit even though the court has explicitly ruled that work should not start until the… hearing takes place,” said the NGO’s statement.

The statement added that Israel “explains to the court that although the court order prohibits the commencement of the works, it does not prohibit the issuance of the permit itself.”

Hebron is a flashpoint of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli settlers.

Despite being home to about 200,000 Palestinians, significant parts of the city’s center are already occupied by about 800 Israeli settlers.

The city includes the site known to Muslims as the Ibrahimi Mosque and to Jews as the Cave of the Patriarchs, which is revered by both faiths.

The holy site complex is believed to mark the burial sites of Prophets Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

About 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 illegal settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Much of the international community regards the Israeli settlements as illegal because the territories were captured by Israel in the 1967 war and are hence subject to the Geneva Conventions, which forbids construction on the occupied lands.

Israel’s regime has faced widespread global condemnation over settlement constructions in the occupied Palestinian lands.

The United Nations Security Council has condemned Israel’s settlement activities in the occupied territories in several resolutions.

Less than a month before US President Donald Trump took office, in December 2016, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 2334, calling on Israel to “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem” al-Quds.

Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.