Israel’s far-right cabinet has approved the legalisation of nine illegal settler outposts in the occupied West Bank, drawing condemnation from the Palestinian Authority (PA), which called the move an “open war” against its people.
More housing units are likely to be built in separate, existing illegal settlements, a statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said on Sunday.
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“The nine communities had existed for many years; some have existed for decades,” the statement added. They were built without authorisation from the Israeli government.
More than half a million Israelis live in more than 200 settlements built on Palestinian land considered illegal under international laws. Palestinians say the settlement expansion threatens the viability of the future Palestinian state as part of the two-state solution.
The Palestinian foreign ministry said in a statement on Sunday that the latest decision crossed “all red lines” and undermined the revival of “the peace process”.
The United States, which provides billions of dollars in military aid to Israel, has yet to comment, but last month its ambassador said the country opposes the authorisation of Israeli outposts. Biden administration has aired views against settlements.
The United Nations has condemned illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories in multiple resolutions and votes.
‘Palestinians will continue to resist’
Political analyst Mohammad Oweis told Al Jazeera that the government of Netanyahu, who was elected in November to form a hardline right-wing coalition, was stepping up its claim on Palestinian land.
“This is an escalation, this will increase the level of violence against the property of the Palestinians,” Oweis said.
“The Palestinians will continue to resist with whatever they have in order to protect their lives and their property.”
The Israeli prime minister’s office said the decision was taken in retaliation for two recent attacks in Jerusalem that killed 10 Israelis. Three Israelis, including two children, were killed in an attack on Friday in Ramot, a Jewish settlement neighbourhood in occupied East Jerusalem.
“In response to the murderous terrorist attacks in Jerusalem, the security cabinet decided unanimously to authorise nine communities in Judea and Samaria,” Netanyahu’s office said in a statement, using the Israeli name for the West Bank, which it occupied in 1967 along with East Jerusalem.
The announcement comes amid escalating Israeli-Palestinian violence, with at least 46 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces this year. Nine Israelis and one Ukrainian have been killed in Palestinian attacks in the past six weeks.
Israeli forces have killed at least two Palestinians, including a teenager, in the West Bank in the past two days.
Netanyahu said earlier on Sunday during a meeting of his government he wanted to “strengthen settlements” and announced that his government wanted to submit legislation to Knesset, the Israeli parliament, this week to revoke the Israeli nationality of “terrorists”.