Israel plans to build thousands more West Bank settlement homes after shooting attack, official says

Jerusalem — Israel plans to build thousands of new homes in settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank in response to a fatal shooting attack by Palestinian gunmen, a senior cabinet minister said. At a time of growing tension over the course of Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters Friday that the Biden administration was disappointed by the announcement of new homes in the settlements, which he called “inconsistent with international law.”

Israel’s finance minister, far-right firebrand Bezalel Smotrich, announced the new settlement plans late Thursday, after three Palestinian gunmen opened fire on cars near the Maale Adumim settlement, killing one Israeli and wounding five, according to Israeli police.

ISRAEL-PALESTINIAN-CONFLICT
Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich visits Kibbutz Kfar Aza, near the border with the Gaza Strip, in a Nov. 14, 2023, file photo.

GIL COHEN-MAGEN/AFP/Getty


“The serious attack on Ma’ale Adumim must have a determined security response but also a settlement response,” Smotrich wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “I demand that the Prime Minister approves the convening of the [Central Planning Bureau] and immediately approves plans for thousands of housing units in Ma’ale Adumim and the entire region. Our enemies should know that any harm to us will lead to more construction and more development and more of our hold all over the country.”

He said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant participated in the discussion. The decision will put in motion approval processes for some 3,000 homes, according to figures widely reported by Israeli media outlets, though no numbers were confirmed by Israeli government officials.

Blinken says settlements illegal, U.S. disappointed

Speaking with reporters during a visit to Buenos Aires, Argentina on Friday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Biden administration was disappointed by the announcement from Israel.

“We’ve seen the reports and I have to say we’re disappointed in the announcement. It’s been long standing U.S. policy under Republican and Democratic administrations alike that new settlements are counterproductive to reaching an enduring peace,” Blinken said. “They’re also inconsistent with international law. Our administration maintains a firm opposition to settlement expansion and, in our judgment, this only weakens, doesn’t strengthen Israel’s security.”

Once the war in Gaza is over, the Biden administration seeks eventual Palestinian governance in Gaza and the West Bank as a precursor to Palestinian statehood. It’s an outcome opposed by Netanyahu and his right-wing government — and pushed farth

er from view, advocates say, as new settlement plans are advanced.


What could come next for Gaza after the war

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“Instead of acting in order to prevent future horrible attacks such as of yesterday, the government of Israel is acting to deepen the conflict and the tensions,” said Hagit Ofran, from Israeli settlement watchdog group Peace Now. “The construction in settlements is bad for Israel, distancing us from peace and security.” 

Tension between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank has soared since Hamas’ brutal Oct. 7 terror attack on Israel sparked the ongoing war in the other Palestinian territory, Gaza, which has been ruled by Hamas for almost two decades.

Israel’s National Security Minister, ultranationalist Itamar Ben-Gvir, visiting the scene of the shooting on Thursday, declared that Israelis’ “right to our lives prevails on their [Palestinians] freedom of movement.”

He suggested that officials “need to distribute more weapons” to Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank — whose very presence is illegal under international law but strongly supported by Netanyahu’s far-right government.


U.S. sanctions Israeli settlers for attacks on Palestinians

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Hamas issued a statement lauding “the heroic operation south of occupied Jerusalem,” calling the attack near the West Bank checkpoint “a natural response to the occupation’s massacres and crimes in the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank.”

Support for Hamas in the West Bank has increased significantly since the war in Gaza began, and that devastating war appeared nowhere near easing on Thursday.

Consecutive Israeli governments have expanded settlements in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, territories the Palestinians seek for a future state, along with Gaza. Construction has accelerated under Netanyahu’s current government, which includes settlers, including Smotrich, in key positions.


How Israel occupied the Gaza Strip, West Bank after the 1967 Six-Day War

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Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip in the 1967 Mideast war.

Since Oct. 7, Palestinian gunmen have carried out several deadly attacks on Israelis. Israel has held the West Bank under a tight grip — limiting movement and conducting frequent raids against what it says are militant targets. Palestinian health officials say 401 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in the West Bank during that period.


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