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Israels defence minister announced plans to build a new Jewish-only settlement in the heart of a flashpoint West Bank city on Sunday, weeks after the United States said it no longer considered such communities illegal.
Rightwing defence minister Naftali Bennett said the new development would double the Jewish population in the city, where around 800 settlers live guarded by hundreds of Israeli soldiers, surrounded by some 200,000 Palestinians.
Hebron is holy to both Muslims and Jews and sees frequent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces.
The Defence Ministry said Bennett had instructed departments responsible for the Israeli-occupied West Bank “to notify the Hebron municipality of planning a new Jewish neighbourhood in the wholesale market complex.”
The market area is on Hebrons once-bustling Shuhada Street, which leads to a holy site where the biblical Abraham and his wife Sarah are believed to be buried.
The street is now largely closed off to Palestinians, who have long demanded that it be reopened.
A statement from a settlers organisation in Hebron hailed Bennetts decision to “bring Jewish life back to Jewish property in Hebron”, labelling it a “historic act of justice” for the Jewish people.
'Result of US decision'
Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said the new project was a result of the USs November 18th decision to no longer consider Israeli settlements illegal.
That move broke with decades of international consensus that settlements are seen as illegal under international law and a major obstacle to peace, as they are built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state.
The Bennett plan, Erekat wrote in English on Twitter, “is the first tangible result of the US decision to legitimise colonisation.”
Israeli anti-settlement group Peace Now condemned the addition to what it called the “ugliest face of Israels control in the occupied territories.”
“In order to maintain the presence of 800 settlers among a quarter of a million Palestinians, entire streets in Hebron are closed to Palestinians, denying them freedom of movement,” it said in a statement.
Israel seized the West Bank including Hebron, one of the worlds oldest cities, in 1967 in a move never recognised by the international community.
In the following years, a small community of Jewish settlers moved into the area next to the site believed by both Jews and Muslims to house Abrahams tomb.
Israels West Bank settlements are considered illegal under international law and are bitterly opposed by Palestinians.
Bennetts move comes amid political turmoil in Israel after general elections in April and September ended in deadlock.
Neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and allies like Bennett, nor their opponents, won enough parliamentary seats to form a viable coalition.
Lawmakers now have until December 11 to find a solution or see parliamRead More – Source