Israel approves almost 2,000 new West Bank settler homes: NGO

Jerusalem (AFP) –


Israel on Wednesday approved construction of 1,958 new settler homes in the occupied West Bank, Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now told AFP.

It was fewer than the 2,500 for which Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said last week he intended to seek approval.

It was the first tranche of settlement approvals since the controversial US embassy transfer to Jerusalem on May 14, a move that infuriated Palestinians and intensified protests on the Gaza border, with at least 61 Palestinians killed in clashes with Israeli forces that day.

Peace Now said that in Wednesday's batch, around 700 units got final approval while the remainder passed the first approval stage in the planning process.

It said that the majority were in isolated settlements outside the major "blocs" which the government will seek to retain in any future peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Israel's West Bank settlements are considered illegal under international law and are bitterly opposed by Palestinians.

Peace Now said in a statement that there had been a leap in settlement-building during US President Donald Trump's term so far, with about 14,000 approvals.

That, it added, "is more than three times the amount that was approved in the year and a half before his inauguration (4,476 units)."