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Israel builds new W.Bank homes

September 5, 2014

Israel has published tenders for 283 new homes in a Jewish settlement, days after announcing plans to expropriate 400 hectares of Palestinian land in the West Bank. The move follows a ceasefire to end conflict in Gaza.

Israeli settlements in the West Bank
Image: dpa

According to documents published on the Israel Land Authority's website, the tenders relate to new housing units in the Elkana settlement, south of Nablus, in the West Bank's north west.

The settlement's expansion was approved in January. Back then, the Haaretz newspaper reported that Israel planned to build some 5,000 settler homes in annexed East Jerusalem and the West Bank, including in Elkana. The Israeli daily added that the announcement aimed to calm public anger after Palestinian prisoners were released under US-brokered peace talks, which later collapsed.

Housing ministry spokesman Ariel Rozenberg told AFP the planning process for the new housing units had been put on hold during the war in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

Last month, Palestinian militants and the Israeli government struck a ceasefire deal, ending almost two-months of conflict. An estimated 2,200 people were killed in the violence, most of them Palestinian civilians.

Biggest land grab in three decades

The tenders for the new Elkana homes come after Israel on Sunday announced plans to expropriate 400 hectares (988 acres) of land near Bethlehem.

According to the Israeli advocacy group Peace Now, the move constitutes the biggest land grab on Palestinian territory since the 1980s, and is likely to threaten a two-state solution to the conflict. The group added it expects Israel to use the land, located in the southern West Bank outpost of Gevaot, to expand housing units in a nearby settlement.

The plans drew international criticism. The US State Department urged Israel to "reverse this decision," while UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was "alarmed" by the plans. The European Union and the United States oppose Israel's West Bank settlement policy as illegal under international law and an obstacle to long-term peace.

nm/jr (dpa, AFP)