Israeli defense minister backs 7,000 new West Bank settlement units

A general view picture shows a construction site in the Israeli settlement of Efrat in the Gush Etzion settlement block in the Israeli-occupied West Bank January 28, 2020. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 06 May 2020

Israeli defense minister backs 7,000 new West Bank settlement units

  • Permits for 7,000 new homes in a settlement near Bethlehem have been issued

JERUSALEM: Israel’s Defense Minister on Wednesday issued building permits for 7,000 new homes in a settlement near Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank, sparking Palestinian condemnation.
Naftali Bennett announced he had “approved the construction of thousands of new housing units” in the Efrat settlement near Bethlehem in the southern West Bank.
The ministry indicated the land would allow the creation of a new neighborhood called Givat Eitam.
“Construction momentum should not be stopped for a moment,” he said.
The rightwing hard-liner is expected to leave his post in the coming days.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his former rival Benny Gantz have agreed to form a unity government which will see Netanyahu stay as premier for 18 months, after which Gantz is meant to take over for an equivalent period.
While Netanyahu is in power, centrist Gantz is expected to serve as defense minister, replacing Bennett.
Brian Reeves from the anti-settlement Israeli NGO Peace Now said Bennett’s decision meant the building process was “in motion” even if Gantz, who is less supportive of settlement expansion, takes over.
The project, which would further squeeze the already restricted city of Bethlehem, still has to pass through the Israeli housing ministry and could also be challenged in the courts, Reeves added.
Since President Donald Trump came to power in 2017, the US government has ceased to criticize Israeli settlement expansion and has supported proposals to annex parts of the West Bank.
The Palestine Liberation Organization immediately denounced a new “violation of international law.”
“This is an outrageous exploitation of the COVID-19 global pandemic to advance the illegal settler project,” senior PLO official Hanan Ashrawi said in a statement.
Over the past decade, the population in Jewish settlements in the West Bank has increased 50 percent, according to official data from Israeli authorities.
More than 450,000 Israelis live in West Bank settlements, with around 200,000 in East Jerusalem.
Settlements in both areas are considered illegal under international law.


Lebanon extends coronavirus regulations until July 5

Updated 32 min 19 sec ago

Lebanon extends coronavirus regulations until July 5

  • This is the sixth extension since they were first implemented
  • More beneficiaries were included on the list to receive COVID-19 aid

DUBAI: The Lebanese government has extended its ‘general mobilization against coronavirus’ for another four weeks.
The extension, the sixth since it was first adopted on March 15, was based on recommendations from Lebanon’s Higher Defense Council.
“The measures are still urgent to avert any second wave whose consequences will be difficult to treat,” the country’s information minister Manal Abdel-Samad said.
Lebanon’s government is still committed to the five-stage plan of reopening and security forces will help oversee violations of measures, he added.
Authorities have started the second wave of financial aid distribution to those negatively impacted by COVID-19, Prime Minister Hassan Diab meanwhile said.
The government has included more beneficiaries ‘n line with field studies carried out by the Lebanese Army in direct cooperation with the Interior Ministry, municipalities and mokhtars,’ Abdul-Samad said.
Authorities will allow protests if people wear masks, avoid blocking roads, do not vandalize public or private properties, refrain from clashing with security forces and non-participating civilians, she added.
“We are with the right to protest but that right can transform into chaos if there is a return to blocking roads, vandalizing public and private property … I don’t think that any Lebanese person accepts these practices, which don’t resemble democratic expression,” Abdul-Samad said.