Israel government approves 3,000 new settler homes
Israel on Tuesday announced plans to build 3,000 new homes in West Bank settlements, pressing forward with a construction binge in the wake of the inauguration of Donald Trump as US president.
The late-night announcement came as Israel was preparing to evacuate an illegally built settlement outpost. It appeared to be an attempt by Israel's nationalist government to calm settler anger over the court-ordered removal of Amona, which was built two decades ago on private Palestinian land. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's hardline coalition is dominated by settlers and their allies.
A late-night statement issued by the Defense Ministry said Netanyahu and his defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman, had approved the new construction.
The move followed an announcement days earlier of an additional 2,500 homes in the West Bank and more than 550 homes in east Jerusalem. The Palestinians claim both areas, captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, as parts of a future independent state - a position that has wide international backing.
The international community considers settlements illegal. But Trump has signalled that he will abandon the policies of his predecessors and be far friendlier towards settlements. He has appointed a prominent US supporter of the settlements to be his ambassador to Israel, and a delegation of settler leaders was invited to his inauguration.
This has emboldened Netanyahu, who repeatedly clashed with President Barack Obama over settlements, to announce a series of construction plans over the past week and a half.