West Bank sees ‘unmatched surge’ in Israeli settlements since Gaza war: NGO

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The West Bank has experienced an “unmatched surge” in the number of new Israeli settlements since the start of the war in Gaza, an Israel-based NGO has said.

The Israeli group Peace Now said in a report that nine outposts had appeared in the West Bank since the start of the Israel-Hamas conflict.

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The West Bank, a territory occupied by the Israeli army since 1967, has seen a sharp increase in violence since the start of the war in Gaza.

About three million Palestinians live in the occupied West Bank, which is also populated by 490,000 Israelis living in settlements deemed illegal under international law, but recognised by Israel.

Peace Now said in the report published on Thursday there had been an increase in the activities of some settlers who are “marginalizing” the Palestinians in the territory, noting a “record” number of new settlements since the outbreak of fighting.

“The three months of war in Gaza are being exploited by settlers to establish facts on the ground and effectively take control of extensive areas in Area C,” Peace Now said, referring to the part of the West Bank under Israeli civilian and military control and where the settlements are concentrated.

Several leaders of Israel’s pro-settlement movement are ministers in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, which has helped to create a “permissive military and political environment” that is favourable to the development of some settler projects, according to the group.

The war in Gaza was triggered by an unprecedented attack on Israel launched by Hamas on October 7, which resulted in the deaths of around 1,140 people, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

In response, Israel has launched a bombardment and ground invasion that have killed at least 22,600 people, most of them women and children, according to the Gaza health ministry.

Acts of violence by settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank reached a record high in 2023, the Israeli watchdog Yesh Din reported earlier this week, while the UN also recorded 1,225 attacks by settlers on Palestinians during the year.

In December, the United States imposed sanctions on dozens of settlers, who are now banned from entering American territory.

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