Work begins on new West Bank settlement: Netanyahu

2017-06-20 19:30
A worker uses a bulldozer to clear the land for the new Amichai settlement in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. (Menahem Kahana, AFP)

A worker uses a bulldozer to clear the land for the new Amichai settlement in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. (Menahem Kahana, AFP)

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Jerusalem - Ground was broken in the West Bank for the first new Israeli settlement in two decades to compensate for an outpost demolished earlier this year, said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday.

He made the announcement as President Donald Trump's Mideast envoy, as well as son-in-law and aide Jared Kushner, arrived in the region for talks with Israel and Palestinian leaders.

Netanyahu had vowed to build the settlement to replace Amona, a settlement outpost built on private Palestinian land that was dismantled in February following an Israeli Supreme Court ruling. Pro-settlement hard-liners who dominate Netanyahu's coalition and oppose Palestinian statehood on security or religious grounds had pressed him to keep that promise.

Netanyahu wrote on Twitter. "After decades, I have the privilege to be the prime minister to build a new community," he said. A picture posted with his announcement shows construction vehicles digging up ground.

Over 600 000 Israelis now live in settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005 and the Islamic militant group Hamas took over the territory soon after.

But Israel has not built a full-fledged new settlement since the 1990s. Instead, construction during that period has expanded existing settlements or taken place in unauthorised outposts like Amona.

The Palestinians claim the territory captured by Israel from Jordan in the 1967 war, for their future state, a demand that has wide international support.

In December, weeks before Trump was inaugurated, President Barack Obama allowed the UN Security Council to pass a resolution that declared all settlements in both areas to be illegal. Trump condemned the decision at the time.

Read more on:    benjamin netanyahu  |  israel  |  middle east conflict

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