Israelis revive flashpoint West Bank settlement

Published : 30 May 2023 09:43 PM

Israelis started reviving a flashpoint outpost settlement in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday, AFP journalists said, constructing a building at the site which has drawn international attention.

Using a truck, diggers and an earth roller, work got underway to erect a portable building at the northern West Bank site.

AFP journalists saw Israeli soldiers guarding around 20 people carrying out construction work at the Homesh site, which Israel evacuated nearly two decades ago.

The latest development comes weeks after the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged his government had no plans to reconstruct the site, after a parliamentary vote on the matter sparked ire abroad.

It was hailed as a "moving historic moment" by Israel's National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir -- an extreme-right settler.

Lawmakers in March voted to annul part of a law which banned Israelis from living in areas of the West Bank which the state evacuated in 2005, the same year Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip.

"The government has no intention of establishing new communities in these areas," Netanyahu's office said in March.

Israel's military occupation of the West Bank has been in force since the 1967 Six-Day War.

Neither the army nor the defence ministry commented on their role in Monday's developments at Homesh when contacted by AFP.

The civilians at the site refused to discuss the matter when approached by AFP journalists.

The United States, Israel's top ally, said this month it was "deeply troubled by the Israeli government's order that allows its citizens to establish a permanent presence in the Homesh outpost".

Washington and the wider international community view Israeli settlements built in the Palestinian territories as illegal and a barrier to peace.

The European Union last week pressed Israel to "cease the policy of settlement expansion" and condemned increased settler violence against Palestinians.

AP adds from Jerusalem: Palestinian gunmen shot and killed an Israeli civilian on Tuesday near the entrance to a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, the Israeli army said.

The Israeli military said in a statement that a man was shot near the settlement of Hermesh, in the northern West Bank. It said troops were pursuing suspected gunmen.

Paramedics said they treated a man in his 30s in a serious condition with a gunshot wound. He was taken to a local hospital, which later pronounced him dead.

The incident was the latest in more than a year-long surge of violence that has wracked the West Bank under Israel’s most right-wing government in history. During that time, Israel has expanded near-nightly military raids throughout the area in response to an increase in Palestinian attacks.

At least 117 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank and east Jerusalem this year, with nearly half of them members of armed militant groups, according to an Associated Press tally. But stone-throwing youths and people uninvolved in violence have also been killed.

 The Israeli army said the number of Palestinian militants killed is much higher.

Meanwhile, Palestinian attacks targeting Israelis have killed at least 22 people.

Israel captured the West Bank and east Jerusalem, along with the Gaza Strip, in the 1967 Mideast war. Palestinians seek these territories for a future state.

Some 700,000 Israelis now live in settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. Most of the international community considers these settlements illegal or obstacles to peace.

On Monday, Jewish settlers erected a religious school in a dismantled outpost in the northern West Bank after Israel’s government lifted a ban on settlements in several areas evacuated as part of Israel’s 2005 withdrawal act from the Gaza Strip. In March, Israel repealed the act which barred Israelis from entering the areas.