Israel has approved the construction of close to 2,000 settler housing units in the occupied Palestinian territories, further increasing the number of illegal Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land. Anti-settlement watchdog Peace Now said that the approvals were given on Sunday, January 5, and Monday, January 6, and that 89% of the new settlements will be constructed in areas which “Israel may have to evacuate under a future peace agreement with the Palestinians.”
According to Peace Now, a total of 786 housing units received the final endorsement required for the construction activity to begin, while 1,150 housing units were approved for “deposit”, which is the first phase of the planning process. 258 out of the 786 units which have received the final approval will be built in Haresha, an ‘illegal outpost’ west of the city of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.
In its statement, Peace Now condemned the new construction, saying, “despite lacking a clear mandate, for this caretaker government it’s business as usual – continue the massive promotion of harmful and unnecessary construction in occupied territory and in places that Israel will have to evacuate. [Prime minister] Netanyahu continues to sabotage the prospects of peace, dragging Israel into an anti-democratic one-state reality resembling apartheid.” The watchdog also noted that the settlement construction activity has dramatically increased under Netanyahu and his unquestioning ally in the United States, president Donald Trump.
Israel has been occupying Jerusalem and the West Bank since the 1967 six-day war between Israel and the Arab countries. The illegal Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land are also a violation of international law and a war crime. Currently, more than 650,000 illegal Israeli settlers live in these settlements.
Meanwhile, in Qalqilya in the northern West Bank, Israeli security forces on Monday violently attacked a peaceful Palestinian protest march against the forceful seizure of land by Israel for the purpose of construction of illegal Jewish settlement near Qalqilya city. The Israeli forces fired tear gas canisters on the protesters. Israeli occupation authorities had recently confiscated hundreds of dunams of privately owned Palestinian land in Qalqilya to expand a setter-use-only road.
In another act of violence, the Israeli security forces on Tuesday arrested five Palestinian worshipers near Bab al-Rahma on the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in occupied Jerusalem. Among those arrested were four boys and one girl, who had allegedly earlier confronted settlers who had broken into the mosque compound. The Israeli forces violently physically assaulted the detainees and then transferred them to an interrogation center in the old city.