West News Wire: A day after the Israeli army razed homes in an area where hundreds of Palestinians fear displacement, a rights group said Israel advanced plans for the construction of more than 4,000 dwellings in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

After a meeting of Israel’s Higher Planning Council, which convened to sanction the development, Peace Now, an anti-settlement group, supplied the figure. The watchdog reported that 2,791 structures gained final approval and 1,636 received an initial nod at the conference.

Three prominent human rights organizations, among others, have called Israel’s actions apartheid, a charge Israel denies.

“The state of Israel took another fall down the abyss and further deepened the occupation,” tweeted Hagit Ofran of Peace Now.

“It’s bad news for Israel and for anyone who cares about the people in our region,” she said.

There was no immediate Israeli government statement, but responding on Twitter to Peace Now’s tally, Israeli Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked called it “a festive day for the settlement of Judea and Samaria” the names Israel uses for the occupied West Bank.

Last week, Shaked announced the plan to approve the new homes, and the administration of United States President Joe Biden voiced its “strong” opposition in response.

“Israel’s program of expanding settlements deeply damages the prospect for a two-state solution,” the US Department of State said last week.

In the West Bank city of Ramallah, Bassam al-Salhe, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, urged Palestinians to “step up their struggle in the face of these settlement projects”.

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He also called on the international community “to take deterrent action against Israel to compel it to stop settlement and its aggression against our Palestinian people”.

The plan to construct 4,000 more homes is the biggest advancement of settlement projects since the Biden administration took office. The White House opposes settlement construction because it further erodes the possibility of an eventual two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israeli settlements are fortified, Israeli-only housing complexes built on Palestinian land in violation of international law. Between 600,000 and 750,000 Israeli settlers live in at least 250 illegal settlements in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem.

Settler attacks against Palestinians and their property are a regular occurrence in the West Bank, home to nearly three million Palestinians.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who once led the main settler organisation, is opposed to Palestinian statehood.

Israel approved the construction of 3,000 settler homes in October despite another US rebuke.

Masafer Yatta is comprised of 19 Palestinian villages that are home to more than 2,000 people. The forcible transfer of the entire population would be one of the largest single displacements of Palestinians for decades.

International law prohibits the use of an occupied territory for a purpose that serves only the occupier and not the occupied population. International law also prohibits the forcible transfer of an occupied population altogether.

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