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Israel 'legalises' settlement outpost in response to settler killing

Over 600,000 Israelis live in settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. [Getty]

Date of publication: 4 February, 2018

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Israeli settlements are seen as illegal under international law and major obstacles to peace as they are built on occupied Palestinian territory.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that his government would grant formal authorisation to a settlement outpost in the occupied West Bank in response to the killing last month of a settler who lived there.

An Israeli settler was shot dead by suspected Palestinian gunmen on 9 January near the Havat Gilad settlement outpost in the northern occupied West Bank.

The following week, Israeli troops searching for his attackers shot dead what they described as a Palestinian suspect in the city of Jenin in the northern West Bank, about 35 kilometres north of Havat Gilad.

However, they did not catch the man considered to have led the attack on Rabbi Raziel Shevach.

The manhunt continued on Saturday with a raid on the village of Burqin. In clashes that erupted there, soldiers shot dead a teenager identified by the Palestinian health ministry as Ahmad Abu Obeid, 19.

"The government will today regularise the status of Havat Gilad to allow the continuance of normal life there," Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting, referring to the wildcat settlement.

The official cabinet agenda says ministers will hear a motion to designate the 15-year-old outpost as a "new community" which will have the necessary building permits and a state budget. Cabinet votes to authorise a pre-existing outpost such as Sunday's are relatively rare.

It says that about 40 families live in the outpost, but envisages its enlargement.

The move comes with European nations voicing increasing concern over settlement growth in the occupied Palestinian territory, but with US President Donald Trump largely refraining from such criticism - what many Israelis view as a green light.

Israeli authorities have advanced plans for thousands of new settlement homes in recent months.

Settlement watchdog Peace Now said that retroactively granting legal status to Havat Gilad, built without submitting development plans or obtaining construction permits, was "cynical exploitation" of Shevach's death.

Israeli settlements are seen as illegal under international law and major obstacles to peace as they are built on occupied Palestinian territory.

But Israel differentiates between settlements it has approved and those it has not.

Those without approval are referred to as outposts and tend to be populated by hard-line religious nationalists who see the entire occupied West Bank as part of Israel.

Past attempts by Israeli authorities to dismantle Havat Gilad have led to clashes with settlers there.

Israel has several times given retroactive approval to outposts, and last year work began on the first completely new government-sanctioned settlement built in the Palestinian territories in some 25 years.

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