Rights group condemns new West Bank settlement construction

Daily News Egypt
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CAIRO: The Israeli government’s plan to back a settlement in the occupied West Bank violates international humanitarian law and should be stopped,

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Thursday in a statement.

Israeli restrictions on the Palestinian population caused by the Israeli-only settlements and infrastructure also seriously infringe on the right to freedom of movement and other basic rights of Palestinians in the West Bank, the statement continued.

HRW also called upon the United States, the largest donor to Israel ($2.8 billion in 2008), to take measures to avoid being financially complicit in the expansion of settlements and the security measures that they entail.

First, the US government should, publicly and forcefully, state its opposition to any further settlement expansion and, second, deduct from US aid to Israel an amount equal to Israel’s expenditures on the settlements, said HRW.

Israel on Thursday had approved construction of 400 new homes in a Jewish neighborhood in annexed east Jerusalem and invited bids for construction of another 416 settler homes in the occupied West Bank.

The interior ministry announced that a committee had approved a plan first unveiled in March to build 400 housing units in the Jewish neighborhood of Neve Yaakov, in predominantly Arab east Jerusalem.

Israeli authorities also called for bids for the construction of 286 homes in Beitar Ilit, a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, just south of Jerusalem.

They also called for bids for construction of 130 homes in Har Homa, a Jewish district in east Jerusalem, which Israel captured and annexed in 1967, a move that has not been recognized by the international community.

The Palestinians and the international community have repeatedly slammed Israel’s settlement construction in the occupied West Bank and in east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as the capital of a future state.

Jewish settlements are widely seen as one of the major hurdles in peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians that were revived at a US conference in November but have since made little tangible progress.

At the conference in Annapolis, Israel agreed to freeze settlement activity, but the government insists it maintains the right to build in settlement blocs it wishes to keep in any future peace deal.

“Once again this government has shown that its words and commitments are meaningless and they have no intention of keeping to their word, the anti-settlement Peace Now group said.

“The continued construction in the West Bank and in Jerusalem is another death blow to the Annapolis process, the Israeli group said.

It said tenders for construction of 1,761 housing units have been issued for Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem alone since peace talks were revived.

A total of 245,000 Palestinians live in east Jerusalem alongside more than 200,000 Jewish settlers. -With additional reporting by AFP.

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