Hamas said yesterday that the Israeli decision to grant illegal settlers official status in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron is a "dangerous precedent," Quds Press reported.
Hamas Spokesman Abdul Latif Al-Qanou said in a statement that this decision "reinforces the authority of illegal settlers in Hebron through affording municipal services in different areas far away from Palestinian services."
He added: "This decision crosses all the red lines and it is a dangerous precedent. The Israeli occupation authorities bear the responsibility of all outcomes which result from this decision."
On Thursday the Israeli NGO Peace Now revealed that the Head of the Israeli Central Command Major General Roni Numa had signed a military order establishing a municipal services administration for the settlers in Hebron.
The group, which follows settler activity in Palestine, have long been critical of the construction of the illegal housing units.
Peace Now said that the order was signed following administrative work by the Israeli Military Advocate General, the Israeli Civil Administration, the Israeli Ministry of Defence, the Israeli Ministry of Justice and the Israeli Ministry of the Interior.
"By granting official status to the Hebron settlers the Israeli government is formalising the apartheid system in the city," Peace Now wrote on its website.
Peace Now added: "This step, which happened immediately following the announcement on the evacuation of the settlers who took over a house in Hebron, is another illustration of the policy of compensating the most extreme settlers for their illegal actions."
Hebron's Palestinian population stands at roughly 200,000, with about 800 illegal Israeli settlers living among them with the protection of some 500 heavily armed Israeli troops.
In July the UN enlisted Hebron's Old City as one of the world heritage sites under threat. The Palestinians welcomed this decision, which angered Israel.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) signed a protocol with Israel in 1997 that divided Hebron into two parts: H1 and H2, with H1 comprising 80 per cent of the city's area under full sovereignty of the PA and H1 under Israeli security control and civil PA control.