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Thursday August 11th, 2022 3:57AM

Rights group: Israel approves building of 4k settler homes

By The Associated Press

JERUSALEM (AP) — An Israeli rights group says Israel has approved the construction of more than 4,000 settler homes in the occupied West Bank.

It's the biggest advancement of settlement projects since the Biden administration took office. The U.S. opposes settlement construction and views it as an obstacle to an eventual peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Most of the international community views the settlements as illegal.

Hagit Ofran, an expert on the settlements at the anti-settlement watchdog Peace Now, says a military planning body approved 4,427 housing units at a meeting on Thursday that she attended.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

Israel’s military has demolished at least 18 buildings and structures in the occupied West Bank following a Supreme Court decision that would force around 1,000 Palestinians out of an area Israel had designated a firing zone, a rights group said.

B’Tselem said in a statement that Border Police and soldiers leveled a total of 18 structures, including 12 residential buildings, in villages in the hills south of the West Bank city of Hebron on Wednesday.

The demolitions came a week after Israel’s Supreme Court upheld an expulsion order that would force out residents of a cluster of Bedouin communities in Masafer Yatta, where they say they have been living for decades. The military declared the area a firing zone in the early 1980s.

Neither COGAT, the Israeli military body in charge of civilian affairs in the occupied territory, nor the army responded to requests for comment about the demolitions.

An Israeli planning committee was slated to convene Thursday to advance over 4,500 housing units in Israel’s West Bank settlements, many of them deep inside the territory, according to Israeli activist group Peace Now.

If approved, it would be the largest batch of new settlement housing construction since President Joe Biden took office. The White House is opposed to settlement expansion and believe it hinders a two-state solution to the decades-long conflict.

Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war and has built more than 130 settlements across the territory that are home to nearly 500,000 settlers. Nearly 3 million Palestinians live in the West Bank under Israeli military rule.

The Palestinians seek the West Bank to form the main part of a future state. They view the expansion of settlements as a major obstacle to any future peace deal because they reduce and divide up the land on which such a state would be established. Most of the international community views the settlements as illegal.

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