Sunday, February 28, 2021

Israel to stop new settlement construction in occupied West Bank: UN chief

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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called on Israel to halt and reverse its this week’s decision to approve almost 800 new settlement united, most of which are located deep inside the occupied West Bank.

The decision, which came days before the inauguration of US President-elect Joe Biden, is a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution, and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East, the UN chief said in a statement issued on Monday afternoon.

Read more: West Bank annexation and its ramifications for Israel

The establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law, Guterres said.

Settlement expansion, further erodes the possibility of ending the occupaation and establishing a contiguous and viable sovereign Palestinian State, based on the pre-1967 lines, he added.

The Israeli action has previously been condemned by the European Union, the United Kingdom, Israeli opposition members and left-wing watchdog Peace Now, among others.

Peace Now said that over 90 percent of the homes would be built deep inside the West Bank, which the Palestinians seek as the heartland of a future independent state, and over 200 homes would be located in unauthorized outposts.

Illegal settlements since 1967 war

Palestinians have condemned Israeli settlement activity, on lands captured and annexed in the 1967 Middle East war, as an obstacle to the creation of a state they seek to create in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.

Read more: Pakistan rebukes Israel over plan to annex West Bank

Most countries regard the settlements that Israel has built on occupied land as illegal.

Israel cites historical, political and biblical links to the West Bank and over 440,000 illegal Israeli settlers live there, among three million Palestinians.

Irresponsible step

Biden has pledged a more even-handed approach in which he will restore aid to the Palestinians that was cut off by Trump and work to revive peace negotiations.

The two sides have not held substantive peace talks in more than a decade.

Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid, who hopes to unseat Netanyahu in March, called the settlement announcement an “irresponsible step” that would spark a “battle” with the new US administration.

Read more: Israeli annexation plans: occupied West Bank under threat

“The Biden administration has not yet taken office and the government is already leading us into an unnecessary confrontation,” he tweeted.

“The national interest must also be maintained during elections.”

APP with additional input by GVS News Desk

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