More Israeli settlements OK'd in Hebron, says watchdog

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Human rights groups have previously raised concerns about "severe and deeply discriminating" restrictions imposed on Palestinians moving around the area, with the regular closure of major streets and armed security checkpoints.

Hebron's Palestinian municipality is expected to appeal the decision and claim ownership of the land. "The permits approved today would increase the number of settlers in Hebron by 20 percent".

Hebron is the largest Palestinian city in the occupied West Bank with a population of some 216,000.

The settlement in Hebron "represents the occupation in its most ugly" form, added Hagit Ofran of Peace Now.

He urged the US administration to pressure Israel to allow the Palestinian government to work freely in the territories classified as Area C in the West Bank and stop settlement activities in the occupied West Bank. "While doing everything in his power to please a small group of settlers, [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu is harming Israel's morality and image overseas, while crushing basic values of human rights and dignity".

The approval on Monday by the Civil Administration's Subcommittee for Licensing is the first for new Jewish housing in the city since 2002.

"That would make a total of 6 500 settlement units so far this year", he said.

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The peace talks between Palestine and Israel have been stalled since April 2014.

Netanyahu recently said he plans no uprooting of settlements, blaming Palestinian "incitement" and attacks against Israelis, among other issues, for the lack of progress in peace efforts.

Currently, a few hundred Jewish settlers live in a heavily guarded enclave among some 200,000 Palestinians.

Last week the Israel and United States announced they would withdraw from the UN's main cultural heritage body over "continuing anti-Israel bias" after Hebron was listed as a Palestinian word heritage site.

In July, more than 100 settlers took over a Palestinian home in the heart of the Old City, which is home to the Ibrahimi Mosque, also known as the Cave of the Patriarchs.

U.S. President Donald Trump is more sympathetic to Israeli settlements there than the global community, which considers them illegal.

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