Israel approves more than 1,900 new settler homes: NGO

IsraelI Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem January 5, 2020. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 06 January 2020

Israel approves more than 1,900 new settler homes: NGO

  • The green light was given on Sunday and Monday, Peace Now said
  • The watchdog says settlement building has vastly increased under Netanyahu and Trump

JERUSALEM: Israel has approved the construction of 1,936 new settler homes on occupied Palestinian territories, watchdog Peace Now said Monday.
The green light was given on Sunday and Monday, Peace Now said, adding that 89 percent of the new homes will be erected in “settlements that Israel may have to evacuate under a future peace agreement with the Palestinians.”
The watchdog says settlement building has vastly increased under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his ally US President Donald Trump.
Netanyahu has been fighting for his political survival faced with corruption charges and after failing to form a new coalition government following April and September elections.
The premier, who was indicted in November on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, is now facing a third general election in March.
“Despite lacking a clear mandate, for this caretaker government it’s business as usual — continue the massive promotion of harmful and unnecessary construction in occupied territory and in places that Israel will have to evacuate,” said Peace Now in a statement.
“Netanyahu continues to sabotage the prospects of peace, dragging Israel into an anti-democratic one-state reality resembling apartheid.”
According to Peace Now, 1,150 of the units were approved for “deposit” or phase one of the planning process.
A total of 786 units received final endorsement, including 258 that are to be built in Haresha, an “illegal outpost” west of the city of Ramallah on the West Bank, the watchdog said.
Israel occupied the West Bank and east Jerusalem in the Six-Day War of 1967 in a move never recognized by the international community.
Its settlements are deemed illegal under international law and widely seen as the main obstacle to peace.
Some 600,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank and Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem among around 2.9 million Palestinians.
Late last year, the Trump administration said it would no longer consider Israeli settlements in the occupied territories illegal.
The move was hailed by Trump ally Netanyahu while Palestinians have been outraged.
The European Union, United Nations and others have stressed, however, that they continue to consider settlements illegal.
According to Peace Now, the number of new settler homes approved by Israel has almost doubled since Trump took office in January 2017.


US believes Iran was ‘directly involved’ in killing of Iranian dissident in Turkey

Updated 15 min 34 sec ago

US believes Iran was ‘directly involved’ in killing of Iranian dissident in Turkey

  • Pompeo: “Another tragic example in a long string of suspected Iran-backed assassination attempts”

WASHINGTON: The United States believes Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security was directly involved in the killing of an Iranian dissident last November in Turkey, a senior administration official told Reuters on Wednesday.
Masoud Molavi Vardanjani was shot dead on an Istanbul street on Nov. 14, 2019. Citing Turkish officials, Reuters last week reported that two intelligence officers in Iran’s consulate in Istanbul had instigated his killing.
“Given Iran’s history of targeted assassinations of Iranian dissidents and the methods used in Turkey, the United States government believes that Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) was directly involved in Vardanjani’s killing,” a senior administration official told Reuters.
The United States had not previously disclosed its assessment on who might have been behind the incident.
A week after the killing, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had described it as “another tragic example in a long string of suspected Iran-backed assassination attempts” of Iranian dissidents. He had not elaborated further.
Late on Wednesday, Pompeo in a tweet said he found disturbing the reports that Iranian diplomats were involved in the killing of the dissident, but that they were “fully consistent” with their assignments.
“Iran’s ‘diplomats’ are agents of terror and have conducted multiple assassinations and bomb plots in Europe over the past decade,” Pompeo said.
A police report by the Turkish authorities into the killing, published two weeks ago, said Vardanjani had an “unusual profile.” It said he had worked in cybersecurity at Iran’s Defense Ministry and had become a vocal critic of the Iranian authorities.
Turkish authorities did not publicly accuse the Iranian government of involvement at the time, but the Turkish officials last week told Reuters that Ankara would now raise Vardanjani’s killing with Iran.
The US assessment comes amid its “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran, through which President Donald Trump aims to force Iran to limit its missile program and curb its use of proxy forces in Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon.
Tensions between Washington and Tehran have remained high since Trump in 2018 unilaterally pulled out of a 2015 nuclear deal to limit Iran’s nuclear program.
In recent weeks, the United States has repeatedly tightened sanctions on Iran, despite calls from Iranian authorities, the United Nations and China asking it to ease them as the Islamic Republic became the hardest-hit nation in the Middle East by the coronavirus pandemic.