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UN chief condemns Israel for settlement expansion

Israel was urged to reverse recent moves to expand Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

28.07.2015
UN chief condemns Israel for settlement expansion

WASHINGTON/BERLIN 

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday condemned Israel's recent moves to expand Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Tel Aviv granted approval Wednesday for the construction of 300 new housing units in the settlement of Beit El, as well as a planning approval to build nearly 500 housing units in a number of settlements in East Jerusalem.

In a statement issued from his office, Ban urged the Israeli government to reverse the decisions.

"[Ban] reiterates that settlements are illegal under international law, an impediment to peace, and cannot be reconciled with the government of Israel’s stated intention to pursue a two-state solution", read the statement.

In Washington, the State Department was "deeply concerned" by Israel's announcement, urging Tel Aviv to "refrain from unhelpful actions” that could jeopardize a resolution to the crisis.

"Settlement expansion threatens the two-state solution and calls into question Israel’s commitment to a negotiated resolution to the conflict," spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement. 

International law views East Jerusalem and the West Bank as occupied territories and deems illegal any construction of Israeli settlements on the land.

The UN's statement said Ban was also concerned about the "imminent threat" of demolitions in the indigenous Palestinian village of Susya in the West Bank.

"The destruction of private property in occupied territory is prohibited under international humanitarian law, and for which actions there must be accountability", it said.

Israel claims the village was built illegally on land under Israeli control, but the villagers and human rights groups say Israeli authorities have systematically refused to grant residents planning permission. 

The village is populated by 350 Palestinians who mostly depend on farming and livestock for their livelihoods.

Germany criticizes Israel's new settlement plans

Germany has also criticized Israel for approving the construction of more than a thousand settlements in occupied West Bank, terming the move a threat to the two-state solution.

“The construction of settlements in occupied territories violates international law. This also hinders efforts to revive the peace process and threatens the basis of a two-state solution,” German Foreign Ministry said Tuesday in a rare statement that criticized its close ally Israel.

Israel reportedly approved 1,065 housing units last week on the occupied territories, according to the Israeli settlement watchdog group Peace Now.  

German Foreign Ministry expressed “grave concern” over the Israeli move and urged authorities to refrain from unilateral steps that could endanger peace efforts.

“Precisely now both sides are urgently called to build trust and refrain from unilateral and provocative actions. We warn that such steps would hamper chances for the resumption of peace negotiations,” the statement said.

Peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators grounded to a halt a year ago over Israel's refusal to release a group of Palestinian prisoners despite earlier pledges to do so.

Last year in the summer, Israel launched a weeks-long offensive on the Gaza Strip, with the stated aim of staunching rocket fire from the blockaded coastal enclave, which killed over 2,160 Palestinians and injured 11,000.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has formed a new coalition government with right-wing and ultra orthodox parties in May, after his Likud party fell short of winning majority in Knesset polls held in mid-March. Netanyahu’s coalition partner Jewish Home party advocates new settlements in occupied territories. 

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