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Israel approves thousands of illegal settlement homes in East Jerusalem

A general view of Ma'ale Adumim, an illegal Israeli settlement seven kilometers from Jerusalem with an approximately population of 70,000 people, is seen as nearly half a million of Jewish live in more than 250 illegal settlements, in Jerusalem on 16 March 2021. [Mostafa Alkharouf - Anadolu Agency]
A general view of Ma'ale Adumim, an illegal Israeli settlement in Jerusalem on 16 March 2021 [Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency]

An Israeli planning committee yesterday approved plans advancing the construction of thousands of homes in Givat Hamatos, an illegal East Jerusalem settlement that threatens to cut off parts of the city from its Palestinian residents and the West Bank.

According to Peace Now activist Hagit Ofran, the Palestinian area of Khirbet Tabalya, southwest of the city, had already been allocated for use in Givat Hamatos. She described yesterday's approval as a "bureaucratic move."

"The expropriation is necessary to advance the plan. But the plan as a whole is hurtling forward – it seems to be very much a done deal," Ofran said.

The illegal settlement currently consists of a set of caravans and mobile homes set up in the early 1990s for Ethiopian settlers.

According to the Jerusalem Post, Israeli planning and building committee member, Yehuda Freudiger, said: "I was happy today to be a partner in advancing the construction plan of Givat Hamatos. Jerusalem craves land for construction, Givat Hamatos is an ideal place that does not harm nature and is close to existing neighbourhoods. All lovers of Jerusalem and lovers of the environment and protecting nature should do everything possible to promote the plan and not let political pressures delay it."

The announcement of the expropriation comes just a day after Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid met with US Vice President Kamala Harris in Washington.

READ: Israel settlers uproot 900 olive trees in Palestinian farms

Despite repeated warnings from Israel's allies against the building of settlements in the West Bank – all of which are illegal under international law – the Bennet government has continued to push ahead with construction.

The EU pointed out earlier this year that the implementation of these plans, especially the construction of additional housing units in the settlement of Givat Hamatos near the settlement of Har Homa, would "sever the link between East Jerusalem and Bethlehem and undermine the negotiations for a two-state solution".

The EU statement also reminded Israel that, "All settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories are illegal according to international law. The European Union reiterates its call to the Israeli government to stop building settlements and to urgently reverse its recent decisions."

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