Watchdog says Israel to approve 31 settler homes in Hebron

Israel is set to approve construction of Jewish settler homes in a flashpoint area of the West Bank city of Hebron for the first time since 2002, the anti-occupation group Peace Now says.

It condemns what it calls an attempt to “squeeze in” the approvals before next week’s US presidential election when Donald Trump faces Democratic challenger Joseph Biden, who views such settlements as illegal.

Peace Now, which tracks settlement construction in the West Bank, says Israeli military authorities have given the green light to the construction of 31 settler housing units “in the heart of Hebron.”

The Israeli military body responsible for civilian affairs in the West Bank, COGAT, took steps to approve new settler housing units in central Hebron in 2017.

Peace Now and the Hebron municipality challenged that project in court.

In 2018, the government allocated more than NIS 21 million ($6.2 million) to the project, according to Peace Now.

The Jerusalem District Court had told the state that the project cannot go ahead until the legal challenge is resolved, with a hearing set for January 31, Peace Now said.

But Israeli authorities told the court on Sunday that they would issue the permits within a week, the non-government group said.

“The state was quick to issue the building permit even though the court has explicitly ruled that work should not start until the… hearing takes place,” says Peace Now’s statement.