Jewish residents of a flashpoint settlement in the West Bank city of Hebron said Thursday they had begun work on the construction of a new neighborhood.
“We are clearing the area for the beginning of the new project,” said Yishai Fleisher, spokesman for Hebron’s Jewish community.
The government approved the construction four years ago on a military base and allocated more than $6 million to it.
The anti-settlement group Peace Now is suing to stop the project, which it says is the first major expansion of the Jewish community in Hebron in two decades.
The neighborhood would eventually contain 31 homes, Fleisher said.
About 1,000 settlers live in Hebron under heavy military protection among more than 200,000 Palestinians.
Works began on the construction of a new settlement of 31 units in Hebron(!)
This government can and must stop it. It is f–king Hebron, where our occupation is most ugly.
— חגית עופרן (@hagitofran) October 21, 2021
Hebron contains the Tomb of the Patriarchs holy site, also known as Ibrahimi mosque, which is revered by both Jews and Muslims.
Palestinian Hebron resident Issa Amro, an activist against settlements, said the new neighborhood would exacerbate friction in the area.
“It means an increase in violence. It means the restrictions on us as Palestinians. It means changing the identity of our own city to an Israeli, Hebrew city,” he said.
The construction was revealed by Peace Now, which published video showing a digger at work.
The military body responsible for civilian affairs in the West Bank, COGAT, approved the new settler units in central Hebron in 2017.
Peace Now and the Hebron municipality challenged the apartment project in the Jerusalem District Court and lost, said Hagit Ofran of Peace Now.
The area had served as a bus station before the Israel Defense Forces closed it for security reasons, Ofran said.
“Now Israel decided there was no military purpose anymore, there is no security need, so it should return to the [Palestinians],” Ofran said. “But instead of returning it, they are taking it and giving it to settlers.”
Fleisher said no court issued an injunction against construction.
Ofran said her group and the Hebron municipality are now appealing to the Supreme Court.