Twelve European countries have called on Israel to scrap plans for the construction of over 3,000 settler units in the occupied West Bank, as Tel Aviv continues to press ahead with its settlement expansion across the Palestinian territories.
The high planning committee of Israel’s so-called civil administration on Wednesday gave the final approval to the construction of 1,800 settler units, and the initial approval for another 1,344. The committee is a military body that oversees civilian matters in the Palestinian territories.
The new units will reportedly be distributed among 30 settlement areas and outposts in the occupied West Bank and East al-Quds. They will mainly be constructed in the settlement areas of Rafafa, Kedumim, Kfar Etzion, and Har Bracha. The new plan has infuriated Palestinians.
In a joint statement on Thursday, the foreign ministries of Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain and Sweden expressed their strong opposition to the construction of the new settler units.
They called on the Israeli regime “to reverse its decision to advance plans for the construction of around 3,000 settlement units in the West Bank,” the statement read.
“We reiterate our strong opposition to its policy of settlement expansion across the Occupied Palestinian Territories, which violates international law,” they said.
The latest approval comes a day after the US said it “strongly” opposed the building of the new settler units in the occupied territories.
US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Washington was concerned about the “plan to advance thousands of settlement units tomorrow, Wednesday, many of them deep in the West Bank.”
Hamas: Israel's settlement expansion plans 'Real war crime'
Hamas said Thursday the settlement expansion is a systematic policy pursued by all successive Israeli regimes, describing the plan as “a real war crime”, the Palestinian Information Center reported.
“The Zionist decision to increase settlement construction in the West Bank has exposed anew the occupation’s disregard for our people’s right to their land … and for all international calls demanding it to halt its settlement war,” said Hamas spokesman Hazem Qasem.
The new plan, he said, reflects Israel's persistence in waging an open-ended war on the Palestinian people’s presence on their land through displacing them and seizing their territories.
Qasem further emphasized the necessity for boosting all forms of resistance against the occupation regime to confront its settlement expansion crimes in the occupied West Bank.
The Hamas official also called on the Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank, to end its security cooperation with Tel Aviv and stop wagering on the “miserable” peace process.
Qasem further stressed that the only way to curb Israel’s settlement activities is to continue with the all-out confrontation with the regime and its settlers and expel them from the occupied Palestinian territories.
About 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 settlements built since the 1967 occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East al-Quds.
Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinian state, with East al-Quds as its capital. The last round of Israeli-Palestinian talks collapsed in 2014. Among the major sticking points in those negotiations was Israel’s continued settlement expansion.
All Israeli settlements are illegal under the international law as they are built on occupied land. The UN Security Council has condemned Israel’s settlement activities in several resolutions.