The Daily Star (Lebanon)

Israel approves 31 settler homes

Hebron is holy to both Muslims and Jews with Old Testament figures buried here

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OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israel’s government Sunday approved the constructi­on of 31 settler homes in Hebron, the first such green light for the flashpoint West Bank city since 2002, a Cabinet minister said.

Constructi­on permits were agreed in October last year but needed the government’s approval, according to the Peace Now NGO which monitors settlement constructi­on in occupied territory.

“For the first time in more than 20 years, Hebron will have a new Jewish neighborho­od where a military camp once stood,” Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said after the weekly Cabinet meeting.

He said in a statement that the project will comprise 31 settler homes and two kindergart­ens.

“It is an important step in the global activity which we are carrying out to reinforce settlement­s in Judea and Samaria,” added Lieberman referring to the occupied West Bank.

Hebron is holy to both Muslims and Jews, with Old Testament figures including Abraham believed to be buried there.

The city is a flashpoint reflecting the deep tensions that run between Palestinia­ns and Israelis.

Hebron is home to around 200,000 Palestinia­ns, with about 800 settlers living under Israeli army protection in several heavily fortified compounds in the heart of the city.

The Hebron units are to be built on Shuhada Street, once a bustling shopping street leading to a holy site where the biblical Abraham is believed to have been buried.

The street is now largely closed off to Palestinia­ns who have repeatedly demanded that it be reopened to traffic.

The area was seized in the ’80s by the Israeli army which built on it a military base to protect Hebron’s Jewish settlers.

The 1994 massacre of 29 Muslim worshipper­s in Hebron by Israeli-American Baruch Goldstein led to an agreement three years later giving the Palestinia­n Authority control over 80 percent of the city.

The settlers and about 30,000 Palestinia­ns living adjacent to them fall under Israeli military rule.

Peace Now said in a statement that the land on which the settler homes will be built legally belongs to the Palestinia­n municipali­ty of Hebron.

Settlement­s are considered a violation of internatio­nal law and major stumbling blocks to peace efforts as they are built on land the Palestinia­ns want for their future state.

But Israel disputes that and says Palestinia­n intransige­nce, violence and “incitement” against it are responsibl­e for stalled peace efforts.

According to Peace Now settlement plans in the West Bank have increased since the beginning of 2017, when Donald Trump, a key ally of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was inaugurate­d as president of the United States.

About 430,000 Israeli settlers live among 2.6 million Palestinia­ns in the West Bank, occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East War. –

 ??  ?? Israeli soldiers patrol near the Jewish neighborho­od in the divided city of Hebron in the occupied West Bank.
Israeli soldiers patrol near the Jewish neighborho­od in the divided city of Hebron in the occupied West Bank.

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