Israel to Approve 500 New West Bank Homes in Shilo

An Israeli committee was on Wednesday to approve construction of 500 new homes in the West Bank settlement of Shilo and retroactively legalize more than 200 built without permits, a spokesman said.

The committee "will meet today to approve construction of 500 units," civil administration spokesman Guy Inbar told Agence France Presse.

Asked about reports that more than 200 homes built without a permit, some in the nearby settler outpost of Shvut Rachel, would be legalized, he said: "Yes it's true -- they will be legalized for humanitarian reasons."

The civil administration is the military body which manages all civilian affairs, including building and planning issues, in portions of the West Bank under full Israeli military and civilian control.

It is part of COGAT, which is a unit of the Israeli defense ministry.

Shilo is a settlement with more than 2,000 residents which lies some 30 kilometers south of the northern city of Nablus.

And Shvut Rahel is a nearby unauthorized settler outpost which is home to 400 people, and which the government has pledged to retroactively legalize.

Press reports said some of the homes which would be granted legal status were in Shilo while others were in Shvut Rachel.

Yariv Oppenheimer, head of the settlement watchdog Peace Now, described the move as "one of the biggest projects in the territories."

It proved that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was "doing everything he could to prevent the creation of two states for two peoples, and is heading towards a bi-national state," he said.

Israel considers settlement outposts built without government approval to be illegal and often sends security personnel to demolish them, although in recent months the government has announced its intention to retroactively legalise a number of them.

More than 310,000 Israelis live in settlements in the occupied West Bank and the number is constantly growing.

Another 200,000 live in a dozen settlement neighborhoods in east Jerusalem, which was captured by Israel in 1967 and annexed in a move never recognized by the international community.

The international community considers all settlements in territories occupied by Israel since the 1967 Middle East war are illegal, whether or not approved by its government.

Source: Agence France Presse

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