Settlers establish 9 illegal outposts in West Bank under fog of Gaza war, watchdog reveals

Youths at the illegal West Bank outpost of Evyatar bring in a water tanker, June 22, 2023. (Flash90)
Youths at the illegal West Bank outpost of Evyatar bring in a water tanker, June 22, 2023. (Flash90)

With the world’s attention focused on the war in Gaza, Israeli settlers have quietly established an unprecedented number of unauthorized outposts in the West Bank, according to a new report from left-wing watchdog Peace Now.

The report finds that settlers have built nine unauthorized outposts since the start of the war. The group estimates it is the largest number of settlements built over a three-month timeframe since outposts began to be established in the 1990s.

Most of the new outposts are primitive. Most consist of only a few tents and an Israeli flag, the report said. But many such outposts have evolved into more permanent developments over the years, often with tacit government support.

Israel’s government is dominated by supporters of the settler movement. Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, a hardline settler leader, holds special authority over settlement planning.

The report says the outposts sit in parts of the West Bank that are under full Israeli control according to interim peace accords signed in the 1990s. Israel says the territory is disputed and the fate of the settlements should be resolved in negotiations. The international community considers all settlements illegal.

“The three months of war in Gaza are being exploited by settlers to establish facts on the ground,” the report says.

Some 500,000 Israelis live in West Bank settlements in addition to 200,000 others in East Jerusalem. The Palestinians seek both areas, captured by Israel in 1967, as parts of a future state.

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