Israel approves Hebron settlement plans for first time since 2002

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Israeli authorities on Monday approved permits for 31 settler homes in Hebron in the occupied West Bank, the first such approvals for the flashpoint city since 2002, the Peace Now NGO said.

An Israeli committee approved construction permits for the 31 units, Anat Ben Nun of Peace Now told AFP. Several hundred Israeli settlers live in the heart of Hebron under heavy military guard among some 200,000 Palestinians.

The approvals are among some 4,000 settler home plans to be advanced as part of a push to greatly boost settlement growth, an Israeli official has said.

Peace Now, which closely monitors settlement construction, said a planning council meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday is expected to have more than 2,000 units on the agenda.

Settlement building in the occupied West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem is considered illegal under international law.

It is also seen as a major obstacle to peace as the settlements are built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing coalition government leans heavily on settlers and their supporters to maintain its thin parliamentary majority.

Israel faced heavy criticism of settlement construction from US President Barack Obama's administration, but that has not been the case with his successor Donald Trump.

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