JERUSALEM: The EU has criticized Israel’s advancement of over 2,000 new homes in West Bank settlements.
In a statement on Monday, the EU reiterated its longstanding position that all settlement activity on occupied land is illegal and “erodes the viability” of the establishment of a Palestinian state.
The Israeli anti-settlement watchdog group Peace Now says Israeli authorities approved various planning stages for the construction of 2,342 new housing units in the occupied West Bank last month.
It says Israel has already pushed forward plans for over 8,300 settlement homes this year — an increase of 5 percent over all of 2018.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry declined comment, and COGAT, the defense body that authorizes settlement construction, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The EU statement came as the Israeli police said an enquiry had been opened and officers suspended after a video emerged online apparently showing a border guard shooting a Palestinian in the back with a sponge-tipped bullet.
Israel’s Channel 13 had broadcast the video on Saturday evening, showing border guards — part of the Israeli police — telling a Palestinian to turn back at a West Bank checkpoint on the edge of Jerusalem.
As the man walks away, his arms raised, one of the officers fires a sponge-tipped bullet, ammunition generally used for crowd control but which can be lethal at short distances.
The man instantly falls to the ground, shouting in pain.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the Justice Ministry had opened an investigation into the incident, which he said took place a year and a half ago.
“As soon as the incident became known the female border police officer was removed from duty,” he said.
“The other border policemen who were there were also removed and some of them were transferred from their positions.”
On Sunday, the Palestinian Liberation Organization slammed Israel over the incident and urged the UN to act.
“The video shows the extent of blind hatred and Zionist racism,” it said. Israel has occupied the West Bank since 1967.
Three million Palestinians live in the territory, alongside more than 400,000 Israelis in settlements seen as illegal under international law. Israeli checkpoints are key points of friction.