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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Israel announces plan to approve 2,500 new settler homes

Move comes with Palestinian tensions rising after deadly protests

Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman gestures as he speaks during the Herzliya Conference, in Herzliya, Israel, on May 10, 2018. Nir Elias / Reuters Photo
Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman gestures as he speaks during the Herzliya Conference, in Herzliya, Israel, on May 10, 2018. Nir Elias / Reuters Photo

Israeli defence minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Thursday that he would seek approval from a planning committee for the building of 2,500 new homes in 30 West Bank settlements.

"The 2,500 new units we'll approve in the planning committee next week are for immediate construction in 2018," Mr Lieberman said in a statement, adding he would also ask the committee to back the building at a later date of a further 1,400 settlement units.

The announcement comes with tensions between Palestinians and Israel soaring.

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Protests near the Gaza border with Israel saw dozens of Palestinians shot dead by Israeli snipers last week.

"We committed to advancing construction in Judaea and Samaria and we're keeping our word," Mr Lieberman said, using the biblical terms for the West Bank.

"In the coming months we will bring forward thousands more units for approval."

Israel's West Bank settlements are considered illegal under international law and are bitterly opposed by Palestinians.

In a Tuesday appeal to the International Criminal Court, the Palestinian foreign ministry called Israeli settlements "the single most dangerous threat to Palestinian lives and livelihoods".

While Israel would expect to retain certain settlements in any two-state peace deal, longstanding international consensus has been that their status must be negotiated.

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