West News Wire: On Friday, a group of fifteen European countries asked Israel to abandon plans build thousands more homes in illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, warning that they “stand in the way” of long-term peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

“The new housing units would pose a new barrier to the two-state solution,” the countries stated in a joint statement released by their foreign ministries.

“Israeli settlements violate international law and obstruct a just, durable, and comprehensive peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” they added.

Israel advanced plans on Thursday for 4,427 housing units for Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank, an Israeli non-governmental organisation said.

The Civil Administration’s high planning committee gave final approval to 2,791 units and initial endorsement for another 1,636 units, said Peace Now, an organisation that closely monitors Israeli settlement building.

Israel seized the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan in 1967.

Since then, nearly 700,000 Israelis have moved into settlements that most of the international community regards as illegal.

The housing plans are scattered throughout a large swathe of the West Bank known as Area C, where Israel exercises military and planning control.

The 15 European countries signing up to Friday’s statement include France, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Poland, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Sweden.

Meanwhile Israeli police closed roads leading to the hospital in Sheikh Jarrah at noon on Friday, as Palestinians began to gather ahead of the procession. Earlier on Friday, police also attempted to prevent Palestinians from placing posters of Abu Akleh outside the church.

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