Israel tenders for more West Bank settlements

Tenders for 283 new homes issued just days after Israel announced its biggest West Bank land grab in decades.

Israel's settlement building is illegal under international law and seen as an obstacle to any lasting peace [AFP]

Israel has said it published tenders for 283 new homes in settlement in the occupied West Bank, just days after announcing its biggest land grab on the territory in three decades.

The expansion of the Elkana settlement, in the northwest of the West Bank, was approved in January and the tenders were published on Thursday, Israel’s Land Authority said on its website.

Israel in January said it would advance the construction of about 5,000 new settler homes in annexed East Jerusalem and the West Bank, including in Elkana, Haaretz newspaper reported at the time.

Haaretz said that move was aimed at diffusing Israeli public anger over the release of Palestinian prisoners under US-brokered peace talks that later collapsed.

The process for those units had been put on hold over the summer during the Gaza war, housing ministry spokesman Ariel Rozenberg told the AFP news agency.

Largest land grab in decades

Israel announced on Sunday its biggest land grab in the West Bank since the 1980s, saying it planned to expropriate 400 hectares of land in the south of the territory, between the cities of Bethlehem and Hebron.

That move drew international condemnation, even from ally the US and some Israeli cabinet ministers.

The US State Department urged Israel to “reverse this decision,” and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was “alarmed” by Israel’s plans.

Israel’s settlement building, which is illegal under international law, is seen as an obstacle to any lasting peace with the Palestinians, who want their future state to be on land much of which Israel has annexed or built settlements on.

Jerusalem’s municipality on Wednesday authorised the construction of 2,200 residential units in an Arab neighbourhood of East Jerusalem, saying it was aimed at “upgrading the standard of living and assuming responsibility for all activities taking place in Arab neighbourhoods.”

Source: AFP